The Plastic Pipe & Fittings Association, on behalf of PEX water pipe manufacturers, recently filed a lawsuit against the California Building Standards Commission for excluding PEX from the California Plumbing Code.

The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeks to overturn the state’s adoption of an updated plumbing code on May 2, 2002, which deleted PEX from the code pending an environmental review in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act.

By law, according to the PPFA, the BSC is mandated to update state building codes every three years, based on national model codes such as the Uniform Plumbing Code. The agency has one year to make changes needed to adapt them to California; if no action is taken, the UPC automatically becomes law.

The lawsuit alleges that that the BSC and the five state agencies that advise it on code adoption -- the Department of Housing and Community Development; the Division of the State Architect; the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development; the Department of Health Services; and the Department of Food and Agriculture -- missed the legal deadline for approving an updated code by more than a year and a half, and compounded their error by illegally removing PEX as an approved building material before the May 2 action.

The BSC said it is following procedures.

“The Building Standards Commission is required to adopt the national code with California amendments,” explained Richard Friedman, chief counsel with the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development. “The commission can exclude products that it is not comfortable approving for California.”

During the regulation process, he said, there is time set aside for public review and comments. On this particular issue, some comments were made that there could be some environmental issues associated with plastic pipe.

In response to those public comments, the BSC “instructed its staff to perform an environmental review prior to bringing the PEX issue back before it,” Friedman said.

As of press time, no hearing date has been set.