More homeowners in California soon will be permitted to use cross-linked polyethylene pipe, following a court victory by the Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association.
The Dec. 19 Los Angeles Superior Court ruling overturned restrictions on PEX pipe in the California Plumbing Code. Judge Dzintra Janavs ruled against the state Building Standards Commission and other state agencies in the civil case.
This was the first time the pipe group has sued a state over such a code approval.
``This is a big deal on a lot of different levels,'' said Kevin Eckery, spokesman for PEX manufacturers, shortly after the hearing. ``There are a lot of happy people in California.''
The battle began earlier this year, when the Building Standards Commission asked for a state review of PEX under the California Environmental Quality Act. PEX is an approved material under nationwide building codes, but commission officials essentially delayed the process of adopting certain provisions with the move, officials said.
Janavs ruled that the CEQA could not be used to exclude PEX and that state agencies had acted in an ``arbitrary and capricious manner.''
Officials from the Building Standards Commission withheld comment until they could see a final judgment, which the PPFA will submit to the court for approval.
``We are waiting for the judgment, which is supposed to be filed on Dec. 31, to find out what that meant to the petitioners,'' said Stan Nishimura, executive director of the Building Standards Commission in Sacramento. ``Until we see something in writing, it's difficult to respond to that.''
The agency has until Jan. 13 to lodge any objections.
``[The] ruling is important to consumers and anyone concerned about the effect of politics on the price of housing and the quality of life in California,'' said Dick Church, PPFA's executive director. ``PPFA and the industry presented a clear and convincing case, and the judge agreed. Consumer choices should never be limited by politics.''
In its original filing, PPFA and its PEX manufacturers cited ``political pressures brought to bear by the California Pipe Trades Council,'' alleging that plumbers' unions influenced Gov. Gray Davis' administration to keep PEX out of state building codes. PPFA had the support of the California Association of Local Building Officials, ``who have steadfastly supported efforts to keep politics out of public safety and consumer choice,'' Church said.
PEX manufacturers have served the California market in limited capacity to local jurisdictions, officials said. Those producers include Vanguard Piping Systems Inc. of McPherson, Kan.; Zurn Industries Inc. of Erie, Pa.; and Uponor units Wirsbo and Radiant Technology of Bellport, N.Y.
During the past few months PEX manufacturers garnered support from several California groups, including Consumers First! and the Coalition for Affordable Housing.