Cascade Natural Gas and Partner Utilities File Legal Challenge to Washington State Building Codes
UPDATE TO THE LEGAL CHALLENGE: Following the State Building Code Council (SBCC)’s delay of the effective date of its revised building and energy codes, Cascade and the coalition litigating the 2021 Washington State Energy Codes have filed to voluntarily dismiss our case.
The voluntary dismissal follows the SBCC’s initiation of a process to amend the codes for compliance with the Energy Policy and Conservation Act and the 9th Circuit Court ruling on the Berkeley case, a process the SBCC initiated after our court filing. Cascade will continue to engage in the expedited rulemaking process, providing input on the proposed amendments, and looks forward to a new code that complies with federal law and allows for the use of natural gas appliances.
Cascade Natural Gas, along with NW Natural and Avista, filed on May 22, 2023, a lawsuit challenging amendments made to the Washington State Commercial and Residential Building Codes, which is intended to restrict the use of natural gas.
The Washington State Building Code Council adopted the new amendments in November 2022 to restrict the installation of natural gas services in new commercial construction, multi-family construction and new residential homes. The new rules are set to take effect for commercial buildings and residential homes permitted after July 1, 2023. The codes place strict limits on what appliances can be installed without penalty in new commercial and residential construction, and limit the extent to which natural gas furnaces and water heaters may be utilized.
Cascade is committed to providing our customers with affordable, reliable energy as we continue to embrace technologies to reduce our carbon footprint. Unfortunately, the building code amendments will stifle innovation, increase the cost of housing and energy for our customers, and do not consider the limitations of electric heat pumps in colder climates.
In the lawsuit, which was filed in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, Cascade and partner utilities challenge the authority of the Building Code Council to enact and enforce the building code amendments. In a recent decision in California Restaurant Association v. City of Berkeley, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that municipal efforts to ban the installation of natural gas infrastructure in newly constructed buildings was preempted by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. This lawsuit contends, among other things, that the Washington building code amendments are similarly preempted.
Cascade believes that natural gas plays a key role in reducing carbon emissions, particularly when used directly by customers in their homes rather than used to generate electricity to meet the same need. At the same time, it is critical that we all recognize the importance of balancing responsibility for our environmental footprint with ensuring the affordability and reliability of energy for our customers.
Cascade is committed to moving toward a clean energy future. We are proud of our efforts to pursue renewable natural gas and other low-carbon fuels, as well as our ongoing partnerships to pursue innovative energy efficiency pilots and technologies.
While we challenge the building codes, we will take the necessary steps to comply with the rule as the lawsuit works its way through the system. We also will continue to focus on providing our customers safe, reliable and affordable service.