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Bill to remove some local energy efficiency policies moves forward

In this May 18, 2011 file photo, a compact fluorescent light bulb is seen in Philadelphia. Having to buy a squiggly fluorescent light bulb is an affront to personal freedom, some lawmakers are saying as the House decides whether to overturn a law setting new energy-efficiency standards for the bulbs.
Matt Rourke
/
AP
In this May 18, 2011 file photo, a compact fluorescent light bulb is seen in Philadelphia. Having to buy a squiggly fluorescent light bulb is an affront to personal freedom, some lawmakers are saying as the House decides whether to overturn a law setting new energy-efficiency standards for the bulbs.

A bill that would force a few cities and counties to trim their energy codes for buildings is heading to the Senate floor.

The bill goes back on an agreement that allowed local governments to have stricter energy efficiency rules if they were in place before 2018.

It would remove grandfathered-in requirements like air leakage tests on all new construction in Boise and minimum energy efficiency ratings in Blaine County for houses larger than 2,500 square feet.

“We’re going to lose that mechanism to kind of make sure that these larger homes perform well,” said Jeffrey Giese, the Blaine County Building Official, in an interview.

Laws passed in previous years have attempted to limit local governments from passing energy building codes beyond the state’s baseline – currently the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).

Proponents of this bill said some cities and counties are violating the intent of those laws by continuing to enforce new energy-related policies, even if they’re outside the scope of the IECC. That includes a requirement in Boise for new houses to have outlets to charge electric vehicles, which falls under the electrical code.

Bill sponsor Rep. Joe Palmer (R-Meridian) said the legislation would make the codes consistent across the state and would also help cut costs.

“As you add different types of conservation accessories, I’ll call them, it runs the price of your house up immensely and rapidly,” he said.

Opponents have said energy efficiency standards save homeowners and renters money over time. For example, an analysis completed in Boise a few years ago found that for a single-story, 1,800-square-foot home, complying with the city’s energy codes would cost around $600 initially, but would save about $100 per year.

Others who testified in opposition said the bill could have broad effects.

Jonathan Oppenheimer with the Idaho Conservation League said it would limit local governments beyond removing the more stringent grandfathered policies already in place, but it’s not clear how.

“Anything that wasn’t in the building code that related to energy would appear to be precluded by this,” he said. “I think that hits at the very point and one of the important questions with regards to this bill is, what exactly are the implications?”

The bill passed the full House last week and the Senate Commerce and Human Resources Committee Tuesday on party-line votes.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.