An article written by Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney attorney Robert L. Burns, Jr. was published in the May 4, 2009, edition of The Legal Intelligencer in the paper's Environmental section. Burns is counsel in the Environmental Law Practice of Buchanan's Pittsburgh office.

In the article, titled "Building Codes in NJ and PA Respond to Climate Change," Burns discusses various measures states — namely New Jersey and Pennsylvania — are taking to become more green.

As explained in the article, "[C]ertain states and municipalities have enacted requirements in their building codes mandating that buildings be more energy efficient. … New Jersey, along with California, is the leader in this effort. Pennsylvania, although making strides regarding alternative energy, has been less progressive than these other states."

The article went on to discuss buildings and how they are "the largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the United States." It cites a study done in 2002 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which estimated that commercial buildings account for approximately 40 percent of energy consumption and almost 70 percent of total electricity consumption in the United States.

"Generally, building codes are controlled by states and municipalities," Burns explains. "As such, some states and municipalities are attempting to modify their building codes to mandate that buildings be more energy efficient. These mandates generally require builders to incorporate green building or sustainable practices into new or significantly remodeled buildings. They also typically mandate increased energy efficiency in new or significantly remodeled buildings with the goal of decreasing the GHG emissions associated with those buildings. Recent developments in California illustrate the trend to mandate the construction of more energy efficient buildings through changes to building codes."

Burns noted New Jersey as following closely behind California in actively responding to climate change on a statewide basis. He cited the Global Warming Response Act of 2007, "which aggressively calls for a statewide reduction in GHG emissions to 1990 levels or below by 2020 (the '2020 limit'), and an additional reduction of 80 percent below 2006 levels by 2050 (the '2050 limit')."

The article concluded, focusing on Pennsylvania. "Pennsylvania is behind New Jersey and California with regard to mandating green building practices and more energy efficient construction as a means to address GHG emissions, climate change and global warming," the article says.

Burns explained that in July 2008, Pennsylvania passed Act 70 of 2008, also known as the Pennsylvania Climate Change Act. They wrote that while "it does not mandate a reduction in GHG emissions or the implementation of green building initiatives," it does accomplish the following:

  • Establishes a Climate Change Advisory Committee.
  • Requires the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to compile an annual inventory of commonwealth-wide GHG emissions from all sources.
  • Required the PaDEP to issue a report on or before April 9, 2009, similar to NJDEP's Recommendation Report, that addressees the potential impacts of climate change in the commonwealth and the prospective mitigation strategies for curbing future GHG emissions (the "action plan").