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Thurston County judge denies motion to pause new Washington energy codes

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(The Center Square) – A Thurston County Superior Court judge has denied a motion to stay requested by plaintiffs involved in a lawsuit against the state’s new energy code regulations.

In her Friday oral decision, Judge Carol Murphy said the plaintiffs failed to meet a four-part test under a state law concerning stays that requires the following:

The applicant is likely to prevail when the court finally disposes of the matter;Without relief the applicant will suffer irreparable injury;The grant of relief to the applicant will not substantially harm other parties to the proceedings; andThe threat to the public health, safety, or welfare is not sufficiently serious to justify the agency action in the circumstances.

Murphy said that “petitioners have not shown that they likely to prevail on those arguments. They may ultimately prevail but today the court looks at whether that’s likely or not.”

She also said that “the granting of a stay will harm entities that are prepared for the codes to go into effect.”

Had Murphy agreed with the plaintiffs, the new code would have been paused rather than take effect on March 15.

The lawsuit itself concerns new energy code regulations adopted by the State Building Code Council this year. Among the most contentious aspects of the code are regulations around the use of natural gas in new residential and commercial buildings.

While the code doesn’t outright ban natural gas as an initial updated code did, critics argue that the requirements to do so are impossible to meet, constituting a de facto ban. They claim that this not only denies homeowners choice over how to heat their homes, but the regulations will further drive up new home prices.

The plaintiffs have also argued that the SBCC failed to reach the two-thirds majority vote necessary to avoid legislative review of the new code.

Meanwhile, the Legislature this week passed House Bill 1589, which allows Puget Sound Energy to phase out natural gas that an estimated 800,000 Puget Sound Energy customers across six counties rely on.

In a news release, Earthjustice Senior Attorney Jan Hasselman wrote, “Today’s court ruling is a win for anyone who cares about improving indoor air quality and protecting our climate.”

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