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South Carolina Legislators Override Governor’s LEED Veto

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who vetoed a bill mandating LEED Silver for new public construction over 10,000 square feet, major public renovation projects involving greater than fifty percent of the building, and K-12 schools, saw that veto overturned by votes in the State House and Senate earlier this week.

Sanford stated in his veto that “[w]e believe that we should certainly encourage the types of construction contemplated in this legislation but ultimately leave the decision to the institution or governmental entity in question. . . . To do otherwise is to mandate raising the cost of government or education in circumstances that may not warrant the mandate.” (emphasis added).

State Senator Jim Ritchie, who helped push the bill through, claimed that it would “set[] very balanced standards for sustainable construction . . . [that] will save the taxpayers money and help establish energy independence.”

The green carrot versus stick debate generally surfaces in connection with mandates in the private sector, and one local editorial actually questioned whether the governor had, in fact, confused the legislation as applying to private projects. In his veto letter, the governor reiterated his desire to “avoid mandates whenever possible [because] allowing individuals to exercise judgment and discretion is key to finding solutions that work.” Perhaps the governor was influenced by what took place in Nevada last month, where legislators suspended Nevada’s green property tax abatement program (at least in part) over concerns about LEED. Either way, it’s a positive sign that governments are engaging in meaningful discourse over the merits of mandating green construction- whether in the private or public context.

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