California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has placed the issue of whether builders should be allowed to use plastic pipe for plumbing as No. 5 on his list of ways to improve the state's economy, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“Schwarzenegger is embracing plastic construction piping, sharing the view of his building-industry patrons that plastic should be permitted as a less-expensive alternative to copper,” the paper wrote. “He is casting the issue as one unnecessary regulation that hampers growth.”

The Plastic Pipe & Fittings Association filed a lawsuit in late 2002 on behalf of PEX pipe manufacturers against the California Building Standards Commission for excluding PEX plastic pipe from the California Plumbing Code. Richard Church, executive director of PPFA, told PM at the time that the “quantity and timing of political contributions to (then governor) Gray Davis' campaign by plumbers' unions raises questions of propriety.” Plumbers' unions reportedly gave nearly $1.7 million to Davis' gubernatorial campaign.

State plumbers' unions, under the auspices of the California Pipe Trades Council, have opposed the use of PEX because it costs less and is less expensive to install than copper piping, according to the California Coalition for Affordable Housing. In a typical new home, the cost difference can be as much as $500 per house.

In January 2003, a Los Angeles superior judge ruled in favor of the association and ordered the inclusion of PEX into the state's plumbing code (“PEX Makers Win Lawsuit Against California,” February 2003 PM). That ruling is now under appeal by the Building Standards Commission and other state agencies. PEX manufacturers are confident that the state's appeal will fail, according to the Mercury News.