join the federal CHALLENGE against STATE BUILDING CODE RULES RESTRICTING ENERGY CHOICE IN CONSTRUCTION
A coalition of building trades unions, business organizations, home builders, homeowners and others has Rivera v. SBCC – Federal Complaint to the State Building Code Council’s new rules restricting the use of natural gas and propane in new construction.
The coalition has retained outside counsel to challenge the rules because they violate the law. Court challenges are expensive and the case could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to litigate and appeal. The group filed a lawsuit in Eastern District U.S. Court on May 22, 2023. Read the news release.
We need your financial support to help fund legal expenses. Your support will help us hold the State Building Code Council accountable and allow Washington families access to safe, warm homes they can afford.
New rules essentially eliminate natural gas and propane choice
The new energy code requires builders to install heat pumps for space and water heating in all new buildings built after July 1, 2023. These changes – along with new restrictions on natural gas companies’ ability to offset the cost of running natural gas lines to new homes—essentially eliminate the ability for homeowners to choose natural gas for cooking, fireplaces and other uses, all in direct conflict with the Legislature’s actions in the 2022 legislative session.
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated the City of Berkeley, Calif. ban
In California Restaurant Association v. City of Berkeley, the Court ruled that federal law preempts the City of Berkeley’s ban on installing natural gas piping in new construction.
In its decision, the Court ruled the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act expressly preempts state and local regulations concerning the energy use of many natural gas appliances. This includes those used in household and restaurant kitchens.
The Court further noted that by its plain text and structure, the Act’s preemption provision encompasses building codes that regulate natural gas use by covered products. By preventing such appliances from using natural gas, the Berkeley building code violated the Act. Because Washington is under the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, a final decision on this issue binds this state as well as the parties to the case in California.
Costly and dangerous
The new rules have widespread impacts across many trades and industries. The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) surveyed its members to estimate the cost of these rules.
Members reported the heat pump mandate alone would increase the cost of a newly constructed home by a minimum of $9,200, assuming builders take the lowest cost path to WSEC-R compliance and receive the tax rebate from the Inflation Reduction Act. While the mandate allows natural gas heat pumps, none are commercially available for residential customers.
Eastern Washington residents, who frequently lose power during frigid winter months, will be particularly hard hit. The rule allows natural gas and propane to be used for backup heating, but installing both natural gas/propane and electrical appliances adds another $2,400 to homes where owners choose to supplement heat out of choice or necessity. That’s assuming a natural gas line is readily available for a new hookup. Absent a natural gas or propane option, the consequences could be deadly.
Even if homeowners can absorb these added costs, supply chain, labor and various other challenges threaten to delay projects. Washington faces:
- A shortage of compliant heat pump units and their components
- Changes in refrigerant standards for heat pumps
- The recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act
- A similar mandate for California in 2023 increasing demand for heat pump units
Coupled with a lack of skilled workers experienced in installing both required appliances and the necessary energy infrastructure, the upcoming code implementation will be challenging, if not impossible.
Contribute to the litigation fund
Make checks payable to BIAW and mail them to:
Building Industry Association of Washington
c/o Jackson Maynard, General Counsel
300 Deschutes Way, Suite 300
Tumwater, WA 98501
Contribute to Litigation Fund
Please note: BIAW is not a registered 501c3 charity and funds received for this effort are not tax deductible.
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