When Yogi Berra said it ain't over 'til it's over, he must have had in mind the state of California's battle for the adoption of certain plastic pipe into its 2006 plumbing code.
In the latest chapter, a coalition that includes the Sierra Club, California State Pipe Trades Council and the California Professional Firefighters Association has accused the state of trying to slip cross-linked polyethylene and chlorinated PVC pipe into the plumbing code.
The group claims the state, under the influence of builders and plastics manufacturers, is trying to circumvent a November 2004 court decision that PEX and CPVC must undergo an environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act.
But a spokeswoman for the state agency responsible for reviewing the new plumbing code was adamant that it has no intention of adopting either PEX or CPVC without full compliance with the environmental review, consistent with court orders.
``We're a state agency. Why would we defy state law?'' said Janet Huston, director of communications and governmental affairs for the state Department of Housing and Community Development.
California has a long history of political battles over the use of plastic pipe on construction projects. The latest came about when HCD conducted a public comment period on the new plumbing code. On Aug. 1, the Schwarzenegger administration heard testimony at a public hearing held by the California Building Standards Commission.
The commission has until the end of the year to make a decision on what package it will approve, said Stanley Nishimura, executive director of the building standards commission.
Dan Cardozo, a lawyer for the anti-plastic pipe coalition, said in an Aug. 4 phone interview that HCD did not indicate in the public record that it plans to comply with the environmental review.
``They indicated in their regulatory proposals that they had conducted an assessment of PEX and had determined that there were no issues that required review under CEQA,'' Cardozo said.
Cardozo maintains that HCD is being influenced by plastics manufacturers and the building industry. He said HCD's director is a former building industry official.
``Their defiance of the court order and court decision was really outrageous and a reflection of this administration's close relationship with the building industry that has given millions of dollars to this governor, and the plastics manufacturers, who we know have been meeting with the director of HCD ... to plot strategy with regard to approval of these materials,'' he said.
HCD has had a history of involvement with the plastic pipe battle, Huston said.
``Mr. Cardozo and his clients have, as is their right, a long-standing opposition to the inclusion of plastic pipe in the California plumbing code, an opposition that reaches back over several administrations representing both political parties and a myriad of statewide interests,'' she said. ``The primary interest being considered is that of the public interest, and HCD welcomes the comments of Mr. Cardozo and all stakeholders as the required reviews are undertaken.''
The department is in the middle of its review process for CPVC.
``If we are unable to complete the current review, or the analysis concludes that a more in-depth study is needed in order to comply with CEQA, HCD will not proceed'' with trying to include CPVC in the plumbing code, Huston said. ``The important point is that HCD will not advance CPVC without complying with CEQA as is required by an existing court order.''
HCD included PEX in its proposed plumbing code because at that time a trial court decision concluded that there was insufficient evidence to justify the exclusion of PEX. A later court decision held that the environmental review was necessary, and to date ``there has been no movement toward even beginning CEQA compliance,'' Huston said.