In a rare victory for the environment, a North Carolina state administrative panel sided with good energy efficiency standards instead of the politically influential Homebuilders Association.
Decades ago, state legislators created the state Rules Review Commission (RRC) as a tool to block the adoption of strong regulations on business — especially environmental rules. Since the 1990s, it has served as a graveyard for stronger state pollution controls opposed by business interests. Its members are entirely appointed by the General Assembly, which is currently led by an anti-environment caucus.
That’s why it came as such a surprise recently when the RRC unanimously voted to block a rule change designed to weaken building code rules on energy consumption. This change was championed by the North Carolina Homebuilders Association and adopted by the state’s Building Code Council late last year.
The rule change would have allowed residential developers to avoid critical energy efficiency requirements, such as insulation standards, in return for an ill-defined voluntary alternative approach. Critics also said the change had inadequate enforcement processes and could cost consumers big money through higher energy costs. Gov. Roy Cooper’s state budget staff agreed with critics’ analysis, and on the recommendation of its own staff, the RRC also agreed.
The RRC decision is not necessarily the final word. The Homebuilders Association may seek legislative review, but the Building Code Council makeup is also expected to change soon. Gov. Cooper, an advocate for improved energy efficiency and emissions reductions, has another five appointments to that council coming up this year.