A coalition of building associations, plastics industry trade groups and pipe manufacturers is playing beat-the-clock as New York Gov. George Pataki holds veto power on a bill that would place further restrictions on the use of plastic pipe in commercial development.
A three-year ban, signed by Pataki in 2001, is scheduled to expire Dec. 31. Under that legislation, the use of plastic pipe was not permitted in residential buildings larger than six stories and commercial construction. If Pataki approves this new bill, it would extend the ban through 2007, and also ban the use of the product in residential buildings larger than two stories.
Pataki is scheduled to make his decision the week of Dec. 13.
``We are working with a coalition of builders, architects, other building professionals, the National Association of Home Builders, to convince the governor to veto the legislation,'' said Steve Rosario, northeast regional director for the American Plastics Council in Albany, N.Y.
The battle has been going on for years, at least since Pataki signed the earlier legislation in 2001. In June, the New York State Builder's Association filed a memorandum in opposition of the bill.
``This legislation circumvents the Uniform Building and Fire prevention code to enact a specific statutory scheme to prohibit the use of plastic piping in structures other than one or two family dwellings or in certain limited cases, dwellings that do not exceed six stories,'' the association's lawyers said in that filing. ``This bill perpetuates the prohibition against usage of plastic pipe, placing New York state in the same unenviable situation as the only state in the nation not permitting such uses of plastic pipe.''
The coalition is fighting the bill by arguing it is a pocketbook issue: Members claim the bill would increase the cost of construction for multifamily residential buildings and commercial projects.
On the other side, for groups such the Citizens Environmental Coalition, it's a matter of health. Groups rallying for the bill's passage want to make New York an example for the rest of the country.
``This is a major effort to protect health and well being of New Yorkers,'' said Mike Schade, western New York director of CEC. ``This really places New York state on the cutting edge of the green building movement across the country.
``PVC is one of the most toxic products out there,'' Schade said in a Dec. 9 telephone interview.
At this point, it's hard to tell what the governor's decision will be, or how effective the coalition will be in persuading Pataki to veto the bill. Pataki's office did not return a call seeking comment before deadline.
``We've been working very hard,'' Rosario said by telephone Dec. 9. ``We've done everything we can.''
Those who are pushing for the bill's veto say that the plumbers' union is behind it.
``This bill discriminates against PVC, against the PVC pipe industry, against our business in New York and against our employees,'' said Dave Culbertson, president of National Pipe & Plastics Inc., in Vestal, N.Y.
``This is very political,'' Culbertson said by telephone Dec. 9. ``We have people in the country who are trying to degrade PVC unfairly. So basically, this bill is just unfairly attacking one product solely because of the selfish interests of the plumbers' union. There's no bearing in fact or evidential support of anything wrong with our product.''
Still, the plumbers' union insists it's a health issue and not a pocketbook issue.
Larry Bulman, business manager of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 773 in Glens Falls, N.Y., said the union represents more than 20,000 workers. When it comes to residential dwellings, those workers install more PVC pipe than steel pipe.
``We put in a lot of PVC pipe, both water supply and ventilating [pipe]; however, we also know that there are places where it should be restricted,'' Bulman said. ``Some people say in New York, we're getting too strict. But we have a lot bigger buildings in our state than [other places]. Pipe is pipe as far as installation is concerned. Our fight is not about jobs. ... Everyone's looking to save money, even if it means going backward with safety, and that's a very unfortunate problem. People are putting dollars ahead of life.''
But Culbertson said complaints about the toxicity of PVC can be made about any material.
``Everything emits toxic fumes when it burns. PVC is no more dangerous than any other materials in a fire. The most toxic item in a fire is wood, because it has the most volume,'' he said.