A coalition of forest product companies ("the Coalition") has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding, in part, the United States Green Building Council’s preference for Federal Stewardship Council-certified (FSC) wood products. The Coalition has asked the FTC Bureau of Competition to provide guidance to the USGBC and other rating systems regarding the endorsement of product certifications.
If the FTC decides to provide such guidance, the USGBC’s LEED rating system will obviously be affected. I am particularly interested in the implications of FTC action for green building regulations that have incorporated the LEED rating system.
In its complaint, the Coalition takes a shot across the bow aimed at federal agencies that have adopted the LEED rating system:
“The favoritism shown FSC-certified products by USGBC is inconsistent with the American National Standards Institutes’s (“ANSI”) due process requirements and OMB Circular No. A-119, which establishes the principles that voluntary, private sector standards must meet if federal agencies wish to use them, including openness, balance, due process, an appeals process, and consensus.”
In short, the Coalition is arguing that federal agencies are improperly requiring LEED certification for the design and construction of federal buildings. This allegation is not a new one. Most green building regulations that require LEED certification also permit “an equivalent” certification in order to avoid antitrust issues like the ones raised by the Coalition’s complaint.
But many federal agencies exclusively require LEED certification for federal projects. The most obvious example is the General Services Administration, which builds and maintains a large percentage of federal buildings. The GSA’s website describes its LEED mandate:
“As a means of evaluating and measuring our green building achievements, all GSA new construction projects and substantial renovations must achieve Silver certification through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Green Building Rating System of the U.S. Green Building Council.”
If the FTC were to find that the USGBC’s preference for FSC-certified wood products constitutes anti-competitive behavior, hundreds of green building regulations across the country and in Washington D.C. will have to be re-written.
The implications of the FTC action on the complaint are staggering.
What other implications do you see?
- USGBC Accused of Anti-competitive Practices (GBLU)
- FSC, USGBC Accused of Deception, Anti-Competitive Practices (Green Source)
- Letter: Forest Certification and Law and Standards (Complaint)(pdf)
- GSA – Sustainable Design Program (GSA)