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Clarify codes, court asked

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The Construction Industries Commission, locked in a legal battle with environmental groups and individuals, will ask the state Court of Appeals for clarification as to what set of building codes should be enforced in New Mexico.

The confusion stems from an opinion issued April 4 by the appeals court that directed the commission to “set aside” the state’s energy conservation, plumbing, electrical and mechanical codes until it fixed a procedural flaw in their adoption.

In an 8-0 vote with one member absent, the commission also decided Wednesday to address the flaw by preparing acceptable reasons, as directed by the court, as to why the four codes were adopted in 2011. The codes are based on standardized codes developed by the Washington, D.C.-based International Code Council.

“We plan to move with all haste,” Luis Carrasco, the commission’s counsel, told the Journal.

The commission is the rule-making body for the Construction Industries Division, which made an administrative decision to continue to enforce the four codes adopted in 2011 pending clarification.

Environmental groups behind the legal challenge want the division held in contempt of court for continuing to enforce the 2011 codes despite the “set aside” opinion.

The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, Environment New Mexico, Sierra Club and six other plaintiffs originally sued the commission shortly after the adoption in an attempt to force a return to an earlier, customized set of codes peculiar to New Mexico.

The lawsuit was filed directly in the Court of Appeals, thus the plaintiffs aren’t appealing a lower-court ruling.

Thus far, the litigation has only affected areas of the state where the Construction Industries Division enforces building codes. Municipalities such as Albuquerque that have their own building departments and building ordinances, even if they’re word-for-word the same as the state’s codes, have been unaffected.
— This article appeared on page B01 of the Albuquerque Journal

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