A Hawaii court has ordered the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism to follow the state law requiring all new single-family homes to have solar water heaters.
First Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Crabtree ruled this week that the law allows the agency discretion to consider variances for gas water heaters only on a case-by-case basis, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported .
The department must deny requests that fail to meet the legislature's stated policy goals, according to the ruling.
Environmental law organization Earthjustice had sued the department on behalf of Hawaii Solar Energy Association and Sierra Club, claiming it "rubber-stamped" almost all variance requests.
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"Blanket exemptions for fossil fuel infrastructure never made sense, and are simply untenable in today's time of climate crisis," Earthjustice attorney Leinaala Ley said.
The department has approved more than 6,500 exemptions since the law was enacted 11 years ago.
"Closing this exemption represents a massive victory for common sense and clean energy in Hawaii," said Will Giese, executive director of the association. "Solar water heating is a no-brainer solution, which is why it was mandated in the first place, and it generates huge upside benefits for Hawaii residents well into the future."
The state attorney general will decide whether to appeal the ruling, said Alan Yonan, department spokesman.
The department "was making a good faith effort to follow the statute, which includes gas tankless instantaneous water heaters as one of four options available for applicants seeking a variance," he said.