Proposed Arizona Law Could Prevent Municipalities from Adopting Energy and Water-Saving Codes

Arizona cities and counties could lose much of their ability to protect your health and safety when you are inside of a building

January 31, 2020 | Ellen Zuckerman

Two bills, which are being fast-tracked through the state legislature, would prevent local leaders from modifying certain kinds of building codes. These codes are designed to establish minimum standards for building safety, durability, efficiency, air-quality, water usage, and more.

Under current law, local governments are allowed to establish local building codes based on local needs and values. That’s possible because Arizona’s constitution makes Arizona a “home rule” state, underscoring the principle that self-determination has been a fundamental Arizona value from the very beginning.

One way that local governments have been reducing air pollution is by adopting more energy-efficient building codes that make new construction safer, more efficient, and less polluting. After all, over half of Arizona’s energy use occurs in its homes and buildings.

However, House Bill 2686 and Senate Bill 1222 would make an exception to the home rule system that is commonly used throughout the state. In a legal move often called “preemption,” these bills would take away local leaders’ ability to establish certain types of local building code provisions related to energy and water waste.

This means state lawmakers would effectively adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to certain building code provisions that could not be locally modified if local residents or leaders wanted to change them. Instead changes would be imposed by state lawmakers in Phoenix.

Economic impacts

Many local governments use building codes to reduce energy and water waste. Doing this saves residents money, creates new jobs, grows the local economy, and contains utility costs.

However, the new bills would stymie local governments’ ability to take advantage of some of these benefits. That’s because cities and counties would be unable to establish certain local building standards for efficiency, energy, and water.

If Arizona is going to make significant progress to reduce air pollution and conserve water, the rights of local governments to adopt codes, ordinances, and other land-use regulations must be protected. Not only is local governmental authority critical for decisions that impact health and safety, building comfort, and community resiliency, it is critical for a ensuring a continued legacy of democracy in the state.

SWEEP will continue to weigh-in on these proposed bills as they are deliberated in Phoenix.

Ellen Zuckerman is the Arizona Representative at SWEEP, where she works with consumers and businesses in support of energy efficiency in Arizona.

Caryn Potter is the Arizona Program Associate at SWEEP, where she supports all program areas including demand-side management, utility regulatory processes, and electric vehicles policy.