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Federal Appellate Court Upholds Washington Energy Efficiency Rules

Victory: Court of Appeals preserves consumers’ ability to save millions, State’s ability to reduce global warming pollution
June 25, 2012
Seattle, WA —

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld Washington’s energy efficient building code—a code that sets standards that is saving Washington families and businesses millions of dollars on energy bills and reducing harmful global warming pollution. The energy code sets minimum standards for energy efficiency for new homes throughout the state, and has been in effect since 2011. Although supported by many Washington builders, the Building Industry Association of Washington had challenged Washington’s code, alleging that it conflicted with federal law, despite that fact that the code gives builders the flexibility to pick from a large range of energy efficiency options.

Ruling in favor of Washington State and conservation and energy groups, the appellate court found that federal law does not trump Washington’s building code because the code does not mandate the use of major appliances that exceed federal energy efficiency standards and the options are based on scientific modeling. Instead, Washington and other states are free to give consumers and home builders options to increase the energy efficiency of their new homes.

Conservation groups that argued in defense of the state code were pleased with the decision.

“Washington has boosted its economy, economically met rising energy costs, and fought the impact of climate change by being a leader in energy efficiency,” said Amanda Goodin, an Earthjustice attorney who represents the conservation and energy groups. “This decision should give other states the confidence to enact forward-looking codes like Washington’s with the knowledge that these codes comply with the law.”

“The energy code is good for the economy and good for the environment,” said Kim Drury of the NW Energy Coalition. “It’s a lot cheaper to build in energy efficiency at the time of construction. It keeps energy bills affordable and is one of the most cost effective actions to reduce climate pollution.”

Washington has been a leader in energy efficiency for decades. Saving energy through energy efficiency has cost three times less than building new energy sources, and Washington's efficiency investments have avoided the need to build polluting new coal plants.

“Our state’s building energy code saves people money, puts people to work, and reduces energy use,” said Joan Crooks, Executive Director of Washington Environmental Council. “This decision reaffirms Washington’s leadership on energy efficiency and green buildings—both essential ingredients to a clean energy economy.”

The State Building Code Council revised the building energy code in 2009, following two years of work by the public, stakeholders, and the Council’s Energy Code Technical Advisory Group to develop an innovative, cost effective, and flexible building energy code. That time and expertise led to the 2009 revision to the building energy code, a revision that went into effect on January 1, 2011. The new code allows home-builders to choose from a list of practical and accessible energy-saving options for new homes, like installation of high-efficiency, money-saving furnaces or water heaters, or insulation and efficient windows.

NW Energy Coalition, Washington Environmental Council, and the Sierra Club (represented by Earthjustice) and the Natural Resources Defense Council intervened in the case to support the Washington State Building Code Council.

Read the court opinion.

Contacts

Amanda Goodin, Earthjustice, (206) 343-7340, ext. 1020

Kim Drury, NW Energy Coalition, (206) 621-0094

Kerry McHugh, Washington Environmental Council, (206) 631-2605

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.