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Utah House kills 'green' schools recommendation

(Salt Lake Tribune) 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.

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