Last week, a team of builders and Santa Fe city staff were ready to present a set of proposed standards for energy- and water-efficient houses to the city's business committee when they found out the bad news: A federal district judge had granted a temporary injunction to stop Albuquerque from using its new green building code.
Typically, the federal government sets a minimum health standard for things like cars, toys, food and more. States and municipalities can set stricter standards, but not more lenient ones.
Mortimer said there appears to be one exception under the Public Health and Welfare Act: Energy efficient appliances. For those, the federal law sets a ceiling on the energy efficiency of dishwashers, furnaces, clothes washers and other large appliances. States and municipalities can not create standards more restrictive, the opposite of the rest of the law. "It appears to be the only portion of the law that sets a bar," said Katherine Mortimer, Santa Fe's supervising long-range planner.
Albuquerque argued that not implementing the green code would hurt consumers, making them pay for builders' environmentally unfriendly practices.
But federal District Judge Martha Vázquez in part ruled that the harm to the heating and cooling manufacturers and distributors would be greater if the code stands.