Coalition renews legal fight against state natural gas ban in Superior Court
January 23, 2024
The coalition of trade associations, union representatives, businesses and homeowners behind a state lawsuit challenging building codes in Thurston County Superior Court have new court filings today.
The coalition has filed a second amended petition for declaratory judgment asking the court to invalidate provisions of the state’s new building codes. The petition alleges the Washington State Building Code Council (SBCC) violated both the state Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) and Administrative Procedures Act (APA).
“The SBCC overstepped when it approved new energy codes that effectively ban natural gas,” said Ashli Tagoai, General Counsel for the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW). “The SBCC simply doesn’t have legislative authority to carry out Governor Inslee’s environmental agenda through building and energy codes.”
BIAW and the others asked the court to:
- Declare the SBCC’s code amendments invalid;
- Declare null and void its actions during the November and December meetings as violations of the OPMA; and
- Award the coalition its costs and fees.
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State legal challenge background
In February 2023, BIAW joined a coalition of trade associations, union representatives, businesses and homeowners in filing a state lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court. This challenge alleges the SBCC violated state rulemaking laws in approving costly new codes restricting the use of natural gas and propane in new residential and commercial construction.
That lawsuit has been on hold as the SBCC delayed code implementation until March 15, 2024. They delayed implementation to address other legal challenges they faced in federal court.
Federal challenges to state’s energy codes
These legal challenges stemmed from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in April 2023.
In California Restaurant Association v. City of Berkeley, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that federal law preempts the City of Berkeley’s ban on installing natural gas piping in new construction.
The Court ruled the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) expressly preempts state and local regulations concerning the energy use of many natural gas appliances. This includes those used in household and restaurant kitchens.
Specifically, the Court held that EPCA prevents states and local governments from adopting building codes prohibiting new building owners from extending natural gas piping within their buildings from the point of delivery at the gas meter.
In January 2024, the Ninth Circuit denied a request to rehear the case challenging the City of Berkeley’s natural gas ban before a full panel of the Court.
The Building Industry Association of Washington is the voice of the housing industry. The state’s largest trade association with nearly 8,000 member companies, BIAW promotes and protects the vitality of the building industry so more Washington families can enjoy the American Dream of owning a home. Learn more at: www.biaw.com
For media interviews, contact BIAW Communications Director Janelle Guthrie.