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Utah House kills 'green' schools recommendation

Published February 22, 2010 3:46 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah lawmakers have rejected a call to build and certify "green" schools that are energy efficient and have a clean learning environment.

Rep. Mark Wheatley, D-Murray, proposed the resolution to encourage Utah schools to build or retrofit to the standards of a "silver" certification by the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design [LEED] program. Doing so could save each school up to $100,000 in energy costs every year, he said.

The certification also assures appropriate lighting for school work and healthful indoor air quality, he said.

"It gives children a head start for a healthy, prosperous future," Wheatley said.

But critics said building to those standards is expensive, and the Legislature shouldn't encourage a program that likely would lead school districts to ask the cash-strapped state for construction money.

"We need to be really careful here," said Rep. Brad Dee, R-Washington Terrace. "We're asking [schools] to create a fiscal liability."

Resolution opponents said they have heard of LEED certification adding 20 percent or more to the cost of buildings, a figure that Wheatley disputed. Rep. Mike Morley, R-Spanish Fork, opposed the resolution, HJR20, and said schools can add insulation and other energy-saving improvements without committing to the full cost of LEED certification.

Democrats argued that the energy efficiency would make certification a cost saver rather than a liability, but the measure was defeated 47-21 in the House.