House Democrats Urge Powerful Body Overseeing Building Codes To Keep Climate Provisions

Top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter urging the International Code Council to rebuff pressure from the gas industry.

House Democrats warned the private organization that writes the nation’s homebuilding guidelines against eliminating climate-friendly provisions, HuffPost has learned. The measures are aimed at lowering the cost of replacing gas-burning appliances and automobiles with electric alternatives.

The top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter Wednesday to executives of the International Code Council, the nonprofit consortium of industry groups and local governments that updates the generic codes used throughout most of the United States every three years. According to a copy of the letter obtained by HuffPost, they said told the council they “strongly advocate” rejecting the natural gas industry’s attempt to gut pro-electrification rules from the latest update to its code book, set to come out this year.

Trade associations representing natural gas utilities and furnace makers launched a last-ditch effort last fall to strike the provisions in the next round of national building codes related to energy efficiency, as HuffPost first reported last month.

When gas companies appealed similar electrification measures in the 2021 code book, the appeals board agreed with the fossil fuel groups and removed rules requiring builders to include the circuitry for electric appliances and car chargers in all new homes and most commercial buildings.

When the ICC decided to change its own rules last year to allow the industry groups to file nearly a dozen challenges to the 2024 code book, efficiency advocates feared the move presaged another reversal of climate-friendly standards. But last week the ICC’s appeals board rejected all the industry claims and recommended that the ICC’s board of directors to do the same.

The ICC’s board is expected to deliver a decision after its scheduled meeting Monday.

“We strongly advocate that you accept the Appeals Board decision and approve the 2024 IECC with the inclusion of these provisions in the code,” says the letter, signed by Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.). “We do not want to see a repeat of three years ago when EV [electric vehicle] provisions were appealed and removed from the 2021 IECC on procedural grounds.”

Sales of electric vehicles surpassed 1 million for the first time last year, and a major part of the Biden administration’s agenda for a second term would involve hastening the expansion of the charging network that the president’s landmark climate law funded. With most of the rest of the developed world following a similar trajectory, the letter said, the ICC must keep its code book abreast of the modernization process.

With “a majority of state and local governments” looking to the ICC for its codes, the lawmakers said, “the inclusion of EV charging requirements in the 2024 [code book] is critical to ensure that buildings are ready for an EV future.”

“With this growing and expected demand, we must prioritize the necessary charging infrastructure to support rising EV adoption,” they wrote. “Since 80 percent of EV charging is done either at home or while a car is parked at an office during the workday, pre-wiring new buildings for EV charging is a cost-effective strategy that helps owners and builders avoid expensive retrofits in the future.”

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