The House State Affairs Committee amended and approved House Bill 1029 this morning. HB 1029 updates the environmental and energy-efficiency requirements created in 2008 for the construction and renovation of state buildings.

HB 1029 updates South Dakota statute to use the United States Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design latest standards, issued November 2013, instead of the July 2009 standards. HB 1029 also raises the threshold for requiring adherence to LEED standards from 5,000 square feet or $500,000 in construction cost to 10,000 square feet or $1,000,000 in construction cost.

Earlier this week, Dakota Rural Action blogger* Tony Helland raised his concern that doubling the square footage and dollar thresholds will reduce the state's energy savings and its commitment to reducing the state's environmental impact. No one at this morning's hearing raised that concern. In her testimony explaining why the Bureau of Administration requested HB 1029, State Engineer Kristi Honeywell simply said that smaller buildings cannot meet the LEED standards. (Hmm... an 872-square-foot dental office can do it, but hey, I'm a blogger, not an engineer....)

David Owen of the South Dakota joined Engineer Honeywell to advocate HB 1029. Interestingly, he noted that when the state proposed the original green-building requirements in 2008, the business sector raised its predictable hue and cry about government requirements. Owen summarized that resistance as "blah blah." He then told today's committee that the state was right, that the original LEED requirements were a good idea, and that the state has used the energy-efficiency requirements well. Keep that example in mind the next time you hear the Chamber of Commerce crying about government action killing jobs.

The American Chemistry Council (that's an ALEC pro-corporate lobby, not chemists) and the Black Hills Forestry Resources Association were on hand to oppose HB 1029. These two industry groups did not like the direction the original HB 1029 went in getting rid of some alternative rating systems from the green-building requirement. Larry Mann, lobbyist for the BHFRA, explained that in 2008, the LEED standards didn't allow credit for timber harvested from national forests. The inclusion of other standards friendlier to Black Hills timber was a compromise that made our green-building requirements tolerable to local industry. HB 1029 as written undid that compromise and raised hackles. But in her opening, Engineer Honeywell offered an amendment to put back updated versions of those alternative standards that the industry lobbyists found perfectly acceptable. Their opposition evaporated, and everyone at the table was happy.

Rep. Roger Solum (R-5/Watertown) posed an interesting question: does South Dakota need these green-building standards to qualify for any federal funding? Engineer Honeywell said no. Apparently, South Dakota has adopted green building standards out of the goodness of its heart.

Rep. Don Haggar (R-10/Sioux Falls) asked what the return on investment is for all this greenery. Engineer Honeywell didn't have the ongoing utility cost savings, but she did say that the up-front cost to get green-certified is less than 2% (I assume she means of the overall costs of the project).

Rep. Jim Bolin (R-16/Canton) asked about the different LEED certification levels. Engineer Honeywell said there are four: certified, silver, gold, and platinum. South Dakota requires and will require post-HB 1029 silver LEED status. Rep. Bolin emphasized that that means we are requiring the second-lowest standard. We're green, but not that green...

...which evidently keeps these green-building requirements tolerable for most of our Republican legislators. House State Affairs passed the multi-standard amendment and House Bill 1029 as amended, with only Rep. Bolin's dissenting vote, for debate on the House floor.


*I really like sound of the words action blogger together. Let's make t-shirts! :-)