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Friday, October 14, 2011

Guest Blog: Out with the Good, In with the Bad? Don't Let ABQ City Councilors Scrap 2009 Energy-Saving Building Code!

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This is a guest blog by Shrayas Jatkar of the Sierra Club-NM Field Office, and Tammy Fiebelkorn of e-Solved Inc. Thanks go to Lauren Jackson for the graphic design.

Rational and sane policymaking is like an endangered species in today’s hostile, polarized political climate, at the national level as well as in New Mexico under Governor Susana Martinez. Sadly, this means common-sense rules like energy-saving building codes for new construction, are under attack after years of hard work to develop the best safeguards for New Mexico.  

Energy-saving building codes can help New Mexico save consumers money on their electric and gas bills, improve public health by cleaning up the air we breathe, and meet the challenges of climate change.  But earlier this year, the Construction Industries Commission appointed by Governor Martinez scrapped the statewide energy conservation building code that was adopted by their predecessors in 2010, before it went into effect. While challenging this ill-advised decision in the New Mexico Court of Appeals, proponents of energy efficiency are now battling to maintain Albuquerque’s city building code, which has been in place since December 2009.

Albuquerque City Councilors Trudy Jones and Dan Lewis introduced a bill on August 1 to scrap the 2009 Albuquerque Energy Conservation Code (AECC) and replace it with the state’s energy-wasting code that has yet to be finalized. That’s right -- City Council is considering adopting a building code that hasn’t even been finalized! Councilor Jones managed to pull the bill from the Land Use, Planning, and Zoning Committee (LUPZ), and the misguided measure is now before the full City Council. A vote on the bill could come as soon as Monday, October 17, but may be deferred until an updated Economic Impact Analysis is completed. 

Maintaining Albuquerque’s 2009 energy code is essential for all Albuquerque residents, not just tenants of new buildings, who will enjoy lower monthly electric and gas bills. By cutting both overall and peak demand on the PNM electricity generation system, all ratepayers benefit from energy conservation codes. Energy-saving codes also reduce the need for utilities to build expensive new power plants, acting as an insurance policy against future rate hikes.  

Energy-saving building codes also make homes and apartments more affordable for residents, by lowering building operating costs. This is especially important for low income households and seniors on fixed incomes, who cannot afford higher energy bills. We saw the terrible consequences when people are unable to afford to heat or cool their homes during extreme weather, in February of this year when temperatures reached record lows.  

Energy-efficient commercial buildings would also give businesses a competitive advantage over others saddled by excessive energy costs, freeing up more money to invest in communities and in creating jobs.  Businesses could spend more of their hard-earned revenue on training and hiring employees, buying equipment, contracting with other businesses for services -– core business expenses that are vital to economic growth for our city.

With the rates for electricity and natural gas on the rise, Albuquerque’s energy conservation code prepares the city for the future and provides us with a strong return on the up-front investment in energy efficiency.  

It makes no sense to scrap the Albuquerque code for the state plan, given that the 2009 template is outdated, and will need to be updated in 2012. The 2012 national template reaches the same level of energy savings as Albuquerque’s code -– 30% more energy-efficient than the baseline code. If Albuquerque scraps its current code, only to revise it to return to the same level of energy savings within a short time, that would put Albuquerque builders on a rollercoaster ride and cause massive confusion in the construction industries.

Currently, Albuquerque’s energy-saving building code is an asset and an opportunity for local economic development. We are in an excellent position to build a “green building materials” industry that can supply builders with energy-efficient windows, doors, and insulation that meet Albuquerque’s code.  When other states and locales adopt the 2012 IECC, they could turn to Albuquerque for the energy-efficient products and supplies.

Mayor Richard J. Berry and City Councilors Trudy Jones and Dan Lewis’ attempt to roll back Albuquerque’s energy-saving building codes is a capitulation to special interests like NAIOP-NM and the Central NM Home Builders Association. For the majority of Albuquerque homeowners, residents, commercial building tenants, and businesses, there's no good reason to follow Governor Martinez's backwards march to scrap common sense energy-saving building codes.  

Take Action
Join us in defending Albuquerque’s energy conservation code and preparing Albuquerque to be leader in an energy-efficient, 21st Century economy.

Call City Council President Don Harris (505-768-3123) & Urge him to Vote NO on scrapping the 2009 Albuquerque Energy Conservation Code.

Shrayas Jatkar, Sierra Club-NM Field Office
505-243-7767, shrayas.jatkar@sierraclub.org

Tammy Fiebelkorn, e-Solved Inc.
505-410-3884, tammy@e-solved.com

This is a guest blog by Shrayas Jatkar and Tammy Fiebelkorn. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

October 14, 2011 at 12:03 AM in City of Albuquerque, Climate, Energy, Environment, Regulation, Susana Martinez | Permalink