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Wash. Judge Rejects Attack on New Building Energy Code

On Feb. 8, a federal judge in Washington State sided with conservationists, energy efficiency boosters and the state's building code council, upholding new standards for energy conservation in new home construction. The homebuilders’ association had challenged the new standards, which went into effect this past Jan. 1, claiming they were in conflict with federal law.

Specifically, the homebuilders argued that the Washington regulations required new homes to have more efficient furnaces, water heaters, and others appliances than required by federal law. The state building code council and the energy conservation groups argued that the regulations simply require that new homes be 15 percent more energy efficient than the previous code mandated, and they offer a broad smorgasbord of ways to reduce energy use.

This is an old song. Whenever states try to take bold steps in the right direction, especially as regards the environment, some industry group will cry foul and argue that the new initiative violates federal requirements, or that there must be uniform national standards—anything that will keep the old, inefficient (but profitable) system in place.

The judge wasn't buying. Northwest Energy Coalition, Washington Environmental Council, Sierra Club, and Natural Resources Defense Council joined the state to defend the new code; Earthjustice attorney Amanda Goodin and Washington AG Ann Essko represented the groups in court. The conservation groups point out that this decision could—and should—embolden other states to put into place tough, new, money-saving efficiency regulations of their own.

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