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Washington State News

Questions Remain About the Costs of State Building Code Council’s Gas Phaseout

By Carleen Johnson | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – The Washington Policy Center has filed an appeal with Governor’s Office over the Washington State Building Code Council’s denial of WPC’s petition regarding the requirement the SBCC analyze the cost of new rules it adopted that effectively bans natural gas hookups in new homes.

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WPC’s petition to repeal amendments to the 2021 State Energy Code over noncompliance with the Regulatory Fairness Act was denied during SBCC’s regular January meeting.

WPC filed its appeal to the Governor’s Office on March 5. The Governor’s Office has 45 days to respond.

The 15-member SBCC was created to advise the Legislature on building code issues and to develop the building codes used in Washington. Its members are appointed by the governor.

Patrick Hanks is a project coordinator with WPC. He says it’s clear the SBCC did not follow the rules.

“It ultimately shouldn’t be too hard to comply because there are a lot of ways for SBCC to have businesses provide that information, but it seems like they just have a culture where they have not been doing it,” he told The Center Square.

Hanks doesn’t buy the SBCC’s rationale for voting in favor of denying WPC’s petition.

“SBCC claimed they had filed additional cost-benefit analyses which was posted on their website, and they said they met RFA requirements,” he explained.

The Center Square reached out to the Governor’s Office about Hanks’ claims but did not get a response.

“It’s pretty easy,” Hanks said. “Go read the law and look at the requirement, and we’ve outlined five major things that they are missing, which include whole components of the law that says you have to calculate these very specific things.”

The SBCC is not considering the costs of actually implementing a natural gas phaseout, according to Hanks, as opposed to compliance costs.

“It’s dealing with the cost that businesses face in just complying administratively with rule changes,” he explained. “Do they have to train employees? Do they have to get extra supplies? Are there reporting requirements that cost money?”

Hanks says business owners and operators are confused because they don’t know what compliance will cost them.

“The policy impacts are absolutely important and that’s another huge impact, but it is separate from code compliance,” he said. “When people push back and disagree, even if it’s substantial and they have numbers and data on their side, the council kind of ignored that.”

Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law a controversial bill to allow Puget Sound Energy to start planning how to move away from natural gas.

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