NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 15, 2010

In her State of the State address this week, Washington state Gov. Chris Gregoire announced a program to retrofit state buildings with a "green building program" she claims will save $60 million.  Washington politicians frequently make such claims, but in the past they have been consistently inaccurate and even retracted by the agencies overseeing the projects, says Todd Myers, Director of the Washington Policy Center's Center for the Environment.

Proposing projects with a history of failure is not only bad for taxpayers, it also wastes resources that might truly promote environmental sustainability, explains Myers.

In 2005, the Governor signed legislation requiring schools to meet "green building" standards, claiming that such buildings would use 30-50 percent less energy:

  • Since that time, however, audits show that "green" schools in virtually every district use more energy per square foot than other schools in the same district.
  • In the Tacoma, Bellevue, Everett and Spokane school districts, "green" schools use 30 percent more energy per square foot than schools built just before the law.
  • The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Department of Ecology and school district directors have all now admitted that these "green" schools don't save energy.

The state currently has a program to retrofit buildings to improve energy efficiency:

  • Savings, however, are not based on actual performance, but projections that often prove to be inaccurate.
  • General Administration has not audited the information to see if those projections are accurate.
  • A federal audit of a similar program found significant problems with the projections and auditing so significant that the program may actually spend more money than it saves.
  • The report noted that the Department may risk spending up to $17.3 million more than it will realize in energy savings.

As long as Olympia continues to focus on costly and ineffective eco-fads like "green" buildings, Washington will continue to waste resources and opportunities for environmental improvement, says Myers.

Source: Todd Myers, "Governor's 'Green' Building Proposal Founded on History of Costly and Ineffective Eco-Fads," Washington Policy Center, January 12, 2010.


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