The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) has decided to oppose a key House bill on energy conservation that critics say unnecessarily and unreasonably toughens local building codes.

"NLBMDA has long-supported the use of quality, energy-efficient building products," the association said in a statement e-mailed today to ProSales. "And while the goal of this legislation is admirable, creating a national building energy code based on faulty assumptions with no regard for payback periods coupled with a heavy-handed approach to compliance is not in the best interests of our members or their customers.

"Making builders and homeowners subject to civil penalties and threatening states with the withdrawal of federal funding for noncompliance is the wrong approach to creating a national energy policy," continued NLBMDA's statement, based on a decision this week by the association's Legislative Advocacy Committee. "We will continue to advocate for a rational energy policy based on sound data but we oppose this section of the legislation in its current form."

The association was responding to H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. It was introduced May 15 by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and has since been cleared by several committees. Now it's in the House Ways and Means Committee.

NLBMDA's voice echoed that of the National Association of Home Builders, the National Association of Realtors, and other housing-related groups, who wrote last month to Waxman and Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, committee's ranking Republican, to signal "strong opposition" to one part of the bill.

Section 201, among other things, creates national energy efficiency building codes intended to reduce national energy usage by 30% in the next five years and by 50% for residential buildings starting in 2014. Those reductions would use as a baseline the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code.

"The proposal, as currently written, makes faulty or unproven economic and technical assumptions about the viability of achieving certain energy efficiency targets for buildings and homes," the NAHB and other groups wrote. "Additionally, the proposal creates new authority for the federal government to police building codes; holds developers and owners of buildings--including homeowners--liable for not reaching federal energy efficient mandates even if the buildings are presumably in compliance with applicable local building codes; and establishes a civil penalty for violators of this section of the bill.

"This measure would have a chilling effect on development and property transfer across the spectrum of real properties," added the construction groups, which also included the Building Owners and Managers Association, the International Council of Shopping Centers, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts, the National Multi Housing Council, and The Real Estate Roundtable.