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 After Martinez took office, she made her own appointments to the Construction Industries Commission, which then rescinded the Richardson reforms.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.”
Get building science and energy efficiency advice, plus special offers, in your inbox.