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Washington Building Code Council Rejects Energy Code Delay After 9th Circuit Natural Gas Ruling

Brett Davis | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – The Washington State Building Code Council on Friday declined to pass a motion to delay all new code implementations by emergency rule beginning on June 30.


The 8-4 vote was prompted in part by a Monday ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California Restaurant Association v. City of Berkeley that found federal law preempts Berkeley’s ban on installing natural gas piping in new construction.

The Building Industry Association of Washington and 24 others on Thursday sent a letter requesting the council delay implementing new energy codes from July 1 of this year to July 1 of next year.

The new codes translate into an effective ban on traditional HVAC systems and natural gas in most new construction as part of the state’s efforts to fight climate change.

The original motion brought up at the building code council meeting applied only to the two codes that are a de facto natural gas ban in new construction, but was amended to be applied to all codes.

According to the Revised Code of Washington 34.05.350(c)(2), “An emergency rule adopted under this section takes effect upon filing with the code reviser, unless a later date is specified in the order of adoption, and may not remain in effect for longer than one hundred twenty days after filing.”

Andrea Smith, policy and research manager in government affairs for BIAW, explained the rationale for the delay request.

“We’re not saying we’re not in a climate emergency,” she told the council during its virtual meeting. “But we are also in a very deep emergency when it comes to housing affordability, and I would ask you all if you would prefer to deal with the climate issue indoors or outdoors. Homes provide shelter, the very bottom of the, you know, hierarchy of needs that you need to thrive.”

BIAW contends the new codes will increase the cost of housing in Washington.

“Washington’s new energy codes add a minimum of $9,200 to the cost of a new home,” a BIAW news release states. “According to a recent report by the National Association of Home Builders, a median-priced new home in Washington already costs $210,000 more than the national average – $635,131 compared to the national average of $425,786. At that price, nearly 81 percent of Washington’s 3.1 million households can’t afford a home.”

“The original request delay from BIAW came as part of an agenda that is a one-sentence request with no enumerations of issues or justification,” he said. “Some information was submitted with written materials that was sent to the council yesterday [Thursday] evening. However, that letter does not provide the technical details on the issues brought forward in Ms. Smith’s verbal testimony today.”

The late submittal offered little chance for public comment, he added.

With less than a week to go in the legislative session, Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, has introduced Senate Bill 5772 that would suspend implementation of all new energy codes until the building code council amends the code to comply with federal law.

The session ends on Sunday.


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