The Lubbock City Council voted Tuesday to rescind city ordinances that banned certain kinds of corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST).
The move comes after a change in the state law, stating local governments cannot ban building materials that meet certain national safety codes.
This particular gas tubing product is used in home construction nationwide, but has caused debate for years in Lubbock, especially after the death of Brennan Teel in 2012.
Teel was visiting friends when lightning struck a home in South Lubbock, according to officials. That caused a fire, which led to a backdraft explosion. The Fire Marshal’s office blamed CSST in the home.
“They aren’t as safe as we want them to be,” Director of Development Steve O’Neal said.
He was the Chief Building Official at the time, when the city called for a panel of experts to conduct a study on the product.
“Sweat, blood and tears: that’s what it was.”O’Neal said of the research.
He said the conclusion of the study was that due to Lubbock’s flat topography, homeowners were at a greater risk of lightning strikes, and the dangers that could follow.
Subsequently, in 2016, the city council passed ordinances that would ban certain types of CSST from any new construction in the city.
The move was met with backlash from some in the industry, and by 2018, one manufacturer, OmegaFlex Inc., had filed a lawsuit against the city. The lawsuit claimed Lubbock’s ordinance was not based on any industry standard and also said the city’s criteria were so high that no CSST product could be used.
Then, during the 2019 legislative session, House Bill 2439 changed everything.
O’Neal joined Teel’s mother Becky, who had been advocating against the product for years, testifying against the bill at the Capitol.
On the other side were members of the Texas Builders Association and the Safe Building Materials Association of Texas, testifying in favor of the bill.
Chris Chapman with Safe Building Materials released this statement:
“Texas is a free market state and throughout state policy there are numerous examples of state statutes utilizing national codes and standards used to guide the use of materials and products in construction and fire safety. We applaud the passing of HB 2439, as it will ensure that every homeowner, every builder, every Texan, has access to the materials that will help them build a safe and reliable home. Our organization promotes the use of materials that meet national standards, this bill helps ensure that vendors can not dictate the materials used from El Paso to Texarkana, from Dumas to Brownsville, and everywhere in-between.”
Meanwhile, Mayor Dan Pope said he believes the ban was the best move for Lubbock.
“I think it best protects citizens of Lubbock, and I think that’s what the elected council in ’16 voted for,” he said. “They were voting with the recommendation of citizens and staff, so it is frustrating. For whatever reason our legislature feels like it is safe, and they trump us.”
Due to the change in law and the repeal of the city ordinances, the Mayor said the lawsuit will be dropped.
In a statement Wednesday, OmegaFlex said:
“After years of combatting misinformation regarding CSST piping – propagated largely by competitors looking to establish their monopolies – we are pleased that the truth has finally won out. We remain confident that our TracPipe®️ CounterStrike®️ CSST product is the best and safest gas piping product on the market, and thank the Lubbock City Council for their thoughtful and measured approach to rescinding the ban. A competitive market will benefit the residents of Lubbock, and safety for our customers and the communities we serve will always come first.”
So, homeowners will have a choice, but the Mayor and O’Neal agreed it means citizens have to do their research.
“It’s a thing where, like so many other things in construction, the homeowner has a right to assume those types of things are safe. They will never think about it. It is the rare homeowner who will,” O’Neal said.
In a statement Wednesday, Becky Teel said she urges residents to identify the products built in to their homes.
“A deep and sincere thank you to the council, staff and public servants of the City of Lubbock for your commitment to safety and your stance in a mighty fight for that safety. Due to state laws being past in the 2019 legislative session, local governments can no longer adopt and enforce higher safety standards for residents. The commerce of big business and associations was heard over the average resident and the safety organizations that prevent and protect against high-risk situations. For the citizens of Lubbock, knowledge and action from safety officials will guard against the hazards of CSST and will provide protection even though the city must comply with newly instated laws. CSST, Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing or flexible gas tubing, can be identified in your home.”