News Release: New Federal Challenge to Natural Gas Restrictions
May 23, 2023
OLYMPIA…A broad group of plaintiffs has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to halt or delay provisions of the state’s new energy code. The lawsuit is similar to the challenge a group in California won that blocked restrictions to natural gas infrastructure enacted by the City of Berkeley.
The coalition of individuals, labor and business industries, and trade associations filed suit in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. They are requesting an injunction to block or delay the new codes that restrict natural gas in new commercial and residential construction after July 1, 2023.
City of Berkeley ban invalidated
In California Restaurant Association v. City of Berkeley, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled federal law preempted 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, including 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. The Court ruled that the Berkeley building code violated the Act by preventing such appliances from using natural gas.
The coalition argues that the Ninth Circuit’s rationale for overturning the City of Berkeley’s natural ban also applies to Washington’s energy code.
“All we are asking is that the court apply the same law in Washington state as the 9th circuit did in California,” said Jackson Maynard, General Counsel for the Building Industry Association of Washington.
“Thousands of builders, restaurant and hotel owners and businesses deserve to know as soon as possible if they will be allowed to earn a living or whether these unnecessarily restrictive and costly rules will go into effect in July,” he said. “We are proud to lead this fight with other partners throughout the state.”
Natural gas barriers affect housing affordability and comfort
Washington’s new energy codes add a minimum of $9,200 to the cost of a new home. According to a recent National Association of Home Builders report, 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.
Lack of energy choice not only affects housing affordability and availability, but it also harms potential homeowners in areas where electrical outages threaten families’ abilities to stay warm or cook.
According to the Energy Information Administration, roughly one-third of Washington households use natural gas as their primary energy source for home heating.
The Building Industry Association of Washington is the voice of the housing industry. The state’s largest trade association with 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