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Green Building News

Repeal of Green Standards Upheld in New Mexico

A state appeals court sides with the Republican governor in her administration's move to scrap building standards adopted by her predecessor

In New Mexico, Gov. Susana Martinez has won a legal showdown with environmental interests in a case focused on energy efficiency standards.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A New Mexico court of appeals has backed the administration of Republican Governor Susana Martinez in its repeal of energy efficiency standards that had been implemented by her predecessor, a Democrat.

According to a short article from the Associated Press on October 1, the court upheld a decision by the state’s Construction Industries Commission to revise state building codes.

The eight-member commission, appointed by the governor, sets construction standards in New Mexico. The panel had attempted in 2011 to overhaul energy efficiency requirements put in place while Bill Richardson was in office.

The appeals court had set that effort aside, the AP reported, but the commission readopted its code revision last year. Environmentalists appealed, leading to the latest round in court.

Doug Meiklejohn of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center said on October 15 that no decision had been reached on whether to take the case to the state’s Supreme Court.

Energy standards were a “last minute” idea

The story, however, is more complex than recent headlines suggest, says Kim Shanahan, the executive officer of the Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association.

He said by telephone that Richardson appointed a task force to devise tougher energy efficiency requirements as part of his unsuccessful presidential bid in 2008. He wanted the state to adopt rules that were 20% more stringent than the 2006 version of the International Energy Conservation Code, and before he left office those rules were adopted.

New Mexico, along with most other states, subsequently adopted the 2009 version of the IECC, which was tougher than the 2006 IECC but not quite as rigorous as New Mexico’s amended rules. After Martinez took office, she made her own appointments to the Construction Industries Commission, which then rescinded the Richardson reforms.

The net result is that New Mexico uses the 2009 IECC with two “progressive” additions, Shanahan said. One requires heating and cooling days be factored in to energy performance, a way of accounting for the effects of altitude; the other allows a performance path to compliance based on HERS ratings.

“When she’s accused of rolling back the energy codes, she did, technically, roll back the ones that had been passed at the last minute by the Richardson administration,” he said. “But she didn’t really roll them back further than what everyone else in the country was doing, and two significant pieces stayed in the code.”

3 Comments

  1. Expert Member
    Armando Cobo | | #1

    Give credit where credit is due
    I would not call the NM Building Standards a “last minute idea”, especially when Gov. Richardson was Governor until 2011. In 2004 several of us from around the State started having meetings about upgrading the building codes to more energy efficient and sustainable codes. There were dozens of meeting in Albuquerque and Santa Fe with officials from CID and industry stakeholders. Also, out of those meetings, a handful of us developed the Sustainable Buildings Tax Credit. Those tax credits were designed to last seven years and expire, just enough help to help the industry move towards increased construction of EE buildings. FYI, those tax credits got renewed, and it’s my understanding due to their popularity, most of them are used up with in the first few months of the year. Not a bad idea, eh?
    At the time, I do recall several builders angered at us because “we” were the reason construction prices were going up in NM; the funny thing is that those same builders were the first in line to claim tax credits. For the record and as far as I know, we never received a “thank you” check from anyone.
    The bottom line is that those upgraded codes and tax credits were (and are) good for the State of NM and they helped create jobs and raised the quality of buildings, both commercial and residential. It must be awful to think those Codes and Tax Credits have helped the citizens of New Mexico.

  2. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #2

    ... “thank you” check...??? (response to Armando Cobo )
    Are you sure you really WANT one of those from the builders? :-) The appearance of criminal-conspiracy lobbying is as-good-as the crime itself in the court of public opinion.

    It's pretty common for those who are ideologically opposed to tax subsidies to end up taking them anyway, when it's in there personal & business (if not ideological) best interests.

  3. Stephen E | | #3

    Not good news. Would rather
    Not good news. Would rather see blower test on all home purchases as a disclosure.

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