House Bill 349, Promote Green Roofs on Buildings, is just one more example of politicians using the “green” movement to disguise classic political game playing. It sounds good, but it is a really just a taxpayer-funded handout to companies that install green roofs.
The bill – sponsored by Rep. Kelly Alexander (D-Mecklenburg), Rep. Pricy Harrison (D-Guilford), Rep. Tricia Cotham (D-Mecklenburg), and Rep. Ken Goodman (D-Montgomery)—would create incentives that let property owners get out of paying some water treatment fees and take advantage of generous tax subsidies for building or retrofitting buildings with so-called green roofs.
The bill defines a green roof as “any roof which consists of vegetation and soil, or a growing medium with a minimum three inch depth, planted over a waterproofing membrane.” In some circumstances green roofs have been shown to promote energy efficiency by reducing heating and cooling costs.
There is nothing wrong with green roofs, or any innovative plan to try and use energy more efficiently in general. The problem lies with the reasoning that causes legislators to seek subsides.
Traditional thinking that the state should fund things that sound like good ideas doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. If green roofs actually save money, people will have plenty of incentive to build them without a state subsidy.
The political reality is that HB 349 would create a windfall to the handful of companies that install green roofs in North Carolina. It would also give the bill’s sponsors plenty of opportunity to talk about how environmentally friendly they are when the next campaign season rolls around. But it would also come at a substantial cost to taxpayers and result in plenty of “green improvements” that are not economically sustainable.
If green roof salesmen need state subsidies to sweeten their sales pitches, than green roofs aren’t really a good deal, and that is why HB 349 is the “bad bill of the week.”