Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs, in response to a lawsuit filed by the Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association against the California Building Standards Commission and other state agencies, ordered the inclusion of PEX plastic pipe into the California Plumbing Code. The judge agreed that the state agencies had acted in an "arbitrary and capricious" manner in excluding PEX from the state's plumbing code.

"[This] ruling is important to consumers and anyone concerned about the effects of politics on the price of housing and the quality of life in California," said Dick Church, executive director of the PPFA.

The suit was filed on behalf of PEX pipe manufacturers and PPFA members Vanguard Industries, Uponor Wirsbo and Zurn PEX Plumbing and Radiant Heating Systems (formerly Qest Hydronics). It sought to overturn California'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. The California Pipe Trades Council suggested this review during a routine public review and comment period.

In a decision handed down in late December, the judge found that the California Environmental Quality Act could not be used to exclude PEX because PEX is a "product" and not a "project" under state law.

"We knew we were in the right, and we made our point," said Randy Knapp, Wirsbo's plumbing brand manager. "This was a big win against the unions."

He added that throughout the process support was strong from the building industry and code officials. Even consumer groups got into the mix ("California Consumer Groups Support PEX Lawsuit," October PM 2002).

Appeal Possible

But the industry isn't out of the woods yet. There is potential for an appeal by the building commission 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.

Church said there is no indication at this time that they will appeal the ruling.

The California Department of Housing and Community Develop-ment's Chief Counsel Richard Friedman said no appeal decision has been made yet. The agencies have 60 days from the official judgment to file an appeal.