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Federal Judge Rules Against Albuquerque Energy Code

By Erin Weaver

This article originally appeared on BuildingGreen.com.

March 27, 2012
A federal judge has struck down the progressive Albuquerque Energy Conservation Code.
Photo courtesy Daniel Schwen
A federal judge has struck down the progressive Albuquerque Energy Conservation Code.

Federal District Judge Martha Vazquez has upheld her 2010 ruling against the City of Albuquerque’s 2007 Energy Conservation Code and in favor of the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), an HVAC trade association. The code raised energy-efficiency standards for multifamily and commercial buildings, partially through stricter-than-federal regulations on HVAC equipment.

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AHRI filed suit in 2008, claiming that while states may establish building codes, the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) gave federal law supremacy over local law when it comes to appliance efficiency. The City argued that the code’s performance-based compliance paths allowed builders to use products not exceeding federal standards, but in 2010 Vazquez found in AHRI’s favor, stating that the code required those builders to make efficiency gains elsewhere—an imposition that violated EPCA.

Vazquez has now ruled that since the City would not have passed the code without the strict compliance paths, the remaining performance paths constitute a partial statute that is no longer enforceable. Nationwide, questions of code preemption are still uncertain: in a similar case last year, a federal judge ruled that the State of Washington could regulate overall building efficiency because the code in question included multiple compliance paths.

Copyright 2012 by BuildingGreen Inc.

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