New “EPA” Report Trashes LEED Standards… No, Really!

PR company linked to new LEED reportWhen the EPA releases a research report claiming that LEED-certified buildings don’t perform as well as their non-certified counterparts, that’s bound to turn heads in at least some sectors of the blogosphere so consider this mission accomplished. Last Friday, a group called the Environmental Policy Alliance (EPA, what else?) released a bombshell report claiming that LEED (Leadership in Environmental Engineering and Design) certified buildings “actually use more energy than uncertified buildings.” The report has been making waves around the tubes all week long.

That’s all well and good if you’re only interested in culling information from their press release. However, if you are interested in whether the Environmental Policy Alliance is an organization with a solid track record in research or if it’s just another one of those PR efforts masquerading as a think tank, you can follow the links to their website and your answers are right there.

The Environmental Policy Alliance LEED “report”

Here’s one clue: The Environmental Policy Alliance home page includes no obvious links to their contact information, history, staff, board of directors, supporters in academic or trade organizations, or any other information about itself. Maybe we missed something (and if so, please send a link in the comment thread), but usually that information is pretty easy to find when you’re dealing with a professional organization.

Another clue on the Environmental Policy Alliance home page is a line identifying the group as “a project of the Center for Organizational Research and Education,” an organization for which no easily discoverable website exists. If you can find it, drop a link in the comment thread and let us know how you found it.

The big clue, though, is the group of three reports Environmental Policy Alliance touts on its home page. The new report, “LEED Exposed,” is one of them. The other two are “Green Decoys” and “EPA Facts” (the latter referring to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).

The “Green Decoys” report is the one we’re most interested in. Under the headline, “Quacks like a duck: corporate shill Richard Berman Launches ‘Green Decoys’ attack report,” our friends over at Minnesota’s Bluestem Prairie reference some information dug up by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) about Mr. Berman’s company, the aptly named Berman & Co.

The churning out of research reports with dubious qualifications has become something of an annual ritual for Berman & Co. Going by Bluestem’s timeline, “LEED Exposed” follows shortly after the release of “Green Decoys,” which launched at the end of January. Here’s some background information from CREW’s “Berman Exposed” website:

Through his public affairs firm, Berman & Co., Berman has fought unions, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, PETA and other watchdog groups in their efforts to raise awareness about obesity, the minimum wage, the dangers of smoking, mad cow disease, drunk driving, and other causes. Berman runs at least 23 industry-funded front groups and projects, such as the Center for Union Facts and holds 24 ‘positions’ in those organizations.

It’s well worth taking a look at the CREW list for Berman & Co.’s creative use of names for lobbying efforts that directly undercut the work of established organizations, including CSPI Scam, Sunlight Scam, Peta Kills Animals and Rotten Acorn.

“Green Decoys” is aimed squarely and unashamedly at undercutting the wildlife preservation group Trout Unlimited. That’s also the general idea behind the attack on LEED standards, which have garnered broad support in the building trades as well as environmental organizations.

LEED standards have also gained a huge following among non-building corporations as part of their environmental marketing strategy, one prominent example being the Marriott hospitality company, so it looks like Berman & Co. is aiming at a wide target.

As for the LEED Exposed “report” itself, National Review Online is one of the sites that got suckered into covering it as a legitimate piece of research, under the snarky headline “Green Building Certification program LEEDs from behind.”

However, reporter Jillian Kay Melchior did a creditable job of turning the spotlight around with a nice quote from U.S. Green Building Council Senior Vice President Scot Horst, who explained that the report was based on an energy metric that skews in favor of empty buildings.

What’s next for Berman & Co.

Up to now Berman has been flying under the Triple Pundit radar, but with the release of three new environment-related “reports” it seems that we have some catching up to do on this company, so stay tuned.

Image courtesy of the U.S. Green Building Council

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Tina is a career public information specialist and former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She writes frequently on sustainable tech issues for Triple Pundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, and she is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Follow Tina on twitter, @TinaMCasey https://twitter.com/#!/TinaMCasey.