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New federal challenge to natural gas restrictions in energy code filed

May 18, 2024

A broad group of plaintiffs has filed a new federal challenge seeking to stop provisions of Washington’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 Berkley.

Individuals, labor and trade associations file new federal challenge

The coalition of individuals, labor unions, trade associations and others filed suit in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington on May 15. They are requesting an injunction to block Washington’s new energy codes. The codes restricting natural gas in new commercial and residential construction went into effect on March 14, 2024.

The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) is not a party to the lawsuit. However, many of its members are.

Federal law preempts natural gas restrictions

In California Restaurant Association v. City of Berkeley, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that federal law preempts the City of Berkley’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 natural gas appliances. This includes those used in households and restaurants.

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 9th Circuit denied a request to rehear the case challenging Berkeley’s natural gas ban before a full panel of the Court.

Ninth circuit ruling applies in Washington

The coalition argues the Ninth Circuit’s rationale in overturning Berkeley’s natural gas ban also applies to Washington’s energy code.

“Washingtonians rely on natural gas for everything from water and space heating to cooking on a gas range,” said Ashli Tagoai, BIAW General Counsel. “Our members are already feeling the financial impacts of complying with the new energy code’s restriction on natural gas. BIAW is committed to ensuring that natural gas remains available for all who choose it. We proudly support all the plaintiffs fighting in this challenge.”

The defendants have 60 days to respond to this filing with either an answer or a motion.

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