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DC’s ‘Green’ Mandates Come to Arizona Cities

December 13, 2023

Washington, D.C., might be 2,200 miles away from Arizona, but the powerful hand of government is reaching across the country to impose top-down “green” energy mandates in the Valley of the Sun. It’s all happening at the hands of local governments, and citizens are paying the price.

In the city of Tempe, Ariz., the city council unanimously voted last month to approve and implement green codes for all new developments. This after Scottsdale, Ariz., mandated green codes following a 15-year trial period that resulted in minimal community buy-in, despite knowing that they raise the price of new developments by up to 20%, a cost that renters and buyers bear.

Green mandates are an unpopular, expensive way for local governments to impose Washington’s top-down climate agenda on hardworking Americans.

So how do they work?

The International Code Council introduced its International Green Construction Code (IgCC) with the promise to rethink construction as we know it. The entire plan is built around climate and energy efficiency goals. From mandating that new buildings install either solar panels or expensive insulation, to requiring the use of sustainable lumber or recycled steel, to outright banning grass, the IgCC leaves developers with very few choices.

Now, the federal government is incentivizing municipalities to adopt these green mandates and offering billions of dollars in assistance in return.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, for instance, is making $1.3 billion available for energy efficiency block grants and code implementation. The Inflation Reduction Act allocates another $1 billion in building code technical assistance. And the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $90 million in competitive awards to help states, cities, and partnering organizations implement updated green codes for buildings.

This effectively means that local governments, which are supposed to be the most accessible and “voter-friendly” forms of government, are being bought and paid for by the federal government. By imposing green mandates, officials in Tempe and Scottsdale are outsourcing important policy-making work to Washington, D.C.

Perhaps even more concerning, Tempe’s city council seemingly knew there was little consistent interest in these policies, yet voted for them anyway. (Tempe’s green code is optional for the first three years, with the plan to make it mandatory after that.) “I did some research online and saw that Scottsdale had it voluntary and found they weren’t getting a lot of buy-in from the community,” Councilmember Doreen Garlid said before the council unanimously approved the new code. “I just think we are leaders in this area in the city of Tempe. It would be great to see us get (more information first), but then I’d like to see more. I’d like to see it mandatory.”

Not only are green codes unpopular, but they add a significant expense to the overall development process: an additional 15-20%, at least in Scottsdale. While Scottsdale incentivized developers to follow green codes when they were optional by waiving certain permitting fees, or allowing more units per building than would otherwise be allowed, Tempe has included none of those incentives.

That means developers will need to recoup the cost of Tempe’s green mandates in the form of rent or mortgage increases—adding to what are already some of the highest rent and mortgage rates in the Valley.

Despite minimal community buy-in, Tempe and Scottsdale have chosen to side with the federal government over the people they represent. Green mandates are unpopular and costly, and there is no evidence to suggest that Scottsdale has seen a positive impact since introducing the codes.

The only impact these codes will have? Adding more financial strain on Arizonans who cannot afford it.

Austin VanDerHeyden is the Municipal Affairs Liaison at the Goldwater Institute.



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