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Washington industries seek to pause new state energy code

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(The Center Square) – A group of Washington industry and trade associations are seeking to pause the state’s new energy code until a lawsuit challenging it is resolved.

In a motion to suspend, the group argues that “the failure to grant a stay would cost the Petitioners the fruits of their challenge to the regulations, as they would be forced to comply with the costly and unlawful Codes put forward by the SBCC at significant burden and expense to Petitioners and Washington citizens.”

“Construction is a time-consuming industry that requires months of advanced planning,” the motion states. “Because future projects must account for expected changes to the codes, (builders) are already facing significant increased costs of compliance.”

The motion is the latest in a political and legal battle over what heating sources new residential and commercial buildings should be able to use, and if so how. The Washington State Building Code Council initially adopted new regulations after several legislative efforts to implement the same failed to reach Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk. The SBCC then delayed implementation and later passed a new energy code in November, though the plaintiffs claim the council later took up a separate vote in December in order to gain a two-thirds majority vote to bypass legislative review.

“It is indisputable that the SBCC did not pass the commercial code by a two thirds majority vote at the November 28, 2023 meeting,” the motion states. “After realizing that their rules would be subject to legislative review, members of the SBCC coordinated a campaign to set a meeting (a mere two days before the statutory deadline) and take another stab at reapproving its previously “approved” rulemaking. But this effort failed and only a motion to make minor amendments to the codes passed at that eleventh-hour hearing. Unsurprisingly, the SBCC still has not sought the required legislative review.”

Among the lawsuit’s contentions is that the council exceeded its statutory authority and imposes a de facto ban on the use of natural gas; critics testifying during public comment on numerous council meetings insist that the “energy credits” needed to install natural gas are impossible to achieve.

Among the plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit include:

Northwest Regional Council Of The National Construction AllianceBuilding Industry Association Of WashingtonAssociated General Contractors Of WashingtonBlue Star Gas – Seattle Co.Central Washington Home Builders AssociationCraig Reimer Custom Homes, LLCLombardi’s Restaurant Group, LLCNew Tradition HomesNewport West, LLCNorthwest Hearth, Patio & Barbecue AssociationNorthwest HVAC/R Association & Training CenterRed Flannel Construction Co., LLCSoundbuilt HomesTown And Country Homes, LLC

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy will hear the motion at 9 a.m. on March 1. If the motion is granted, then the codes will be paused starting on March 15.