Energy and Conservation Groups Seek to Preserve State Energy Efficiency Rules

At Risk—Consumers’ Ability to Save Millions, Global Warming Pollution Reductions

Tacoma, WA—Energy and conservation groups today filed court papers to defend Washington’s energy efficiency standards – standards that will save consumers millions of dollars and reduce harmful global warming pollution – against a lawsuit that aims to dismantle them.

The legal intervention by Earthjustice, NW Energy Coalition, Washington Environmental Council, Sierra Club, and Natural Resources Defense Council, filed in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, comes in response to a lawsuit by the Building Industry Association of Washington.  The industry group has asked the Court to strike down updated energy- saving standards for new homes built in Washington State, claiming that federal law prevents requiring home builders to choose one out of a wide range of energy efficient design elements in new construction projects. To the contrary, energy advocates maintain the new rules comply with all federal requirements and should be implemented immediately.

“The idea that federal law prevents Washington State from adopting practical energy rules that save families and businesses money is ridiculous,” said Amanda Goodin, an Earthjustice attorney representing the energy and conservation groups.  “Federal law explicitly lays out a path so states can adopt building codes that promote energy efficiency which will create green jobs. Our building code follows that path.”

“Washington’s new efficiency standards will create significant energy and cost savings for residents, and produce new jobs” said David B. Goldstein, energy program director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Other states and cities have helped their economies by adopting strong energy standards, taking the path set by Congress to enable states to achieve greater energy efficiency. This is how the law was meant to work.”

The State Building Code Council adopted the new standards last fall, requiring builders to choose from a list of practical and accessible energy-saving options for new homes, such as installation of high-efficiency, money-saving furnaces or water heaters, or super-efficient insulation and windows.  Each option is given a value based on its energy savings potential, from a half credit to two credits. Fron that menu of energy saving options, builders select measures totaling at least one credit.

“The last-minute legal assault by the building industry seeks to erase common-sense efficiency standards that will conserve energy, reduce pollution, and spur economic recovery in our state,” said Kim Drury of the NW Energy Coalition.  “It is staggeringly short-sighted of a segment of the building industry to oppose these rules.”

Although the new rules were originally scheduled to become effective on July 1, 2010, the Washington State Building Code Council has delayed their implementation.  Groups not associated with the lawsuit have also advocated for implementing the strengthened energy code.

“Delaying this code means uncertainty for builders and decreased savings for consumers,” said Jason F. McLennan, CEO of the Cascadia Green Building Council. “The Cascadia Green Building Council—which represents hundreds of developers, builders, architects, and engineers in Washington—supports the improved energy code because it cuts waste, creates jobs, and makes our firms more competitive.”

“The energy and cost savings we can achieve with the state’s new efficiency standards are huge,” said Joan Crooks, Executive Director of the Washington Environmental Council. “Energy efficiency must remain a top priority in our state.  It will lead us towards greater energy independence, a cleaner energy future, and a stronger economy.”

Editorial on State Codes from The Olympian

Washington State Energy Codes FAQ (.PDF File)