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E-M:/ State Supreme Court Rules "YES" on modern efficiency standards; "NO" to Home Builders group

June 26, 2008




Alecia Ward: 312-550-8460

Jim Crisp: 517-321-7500




Supreme Court ruling paves the way for new energy code, rebuffs Home Builders’ bid to thwart modern efficiency

Michigan ratepayers to save money, cut pollution and global warming emissions


LansingA state energy code requiring home builders to use modern energy efficiency measures likely will be enacted soon as a result of a decision by the Michigan Supreme Court released Wednesday.


The new, energy-efficient code, adopted in 2004, had been in limbo during years of legal maneuvers to block it, led by the Michigan Association of Home Builders (MAHB).


The ruling will likely mean that Michigan consumers will have better protection against rising energy costs through the inclusion of up-to-date efficiencies in new home construction. If the rules become effective, they will help cut the $24 billion annually sent from Michigan citizens and businesses to other states and countries to import expensive fossil fuels.


Three organizations – the Michigan Environmental Council, Michigan Community Action Agency Association and Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance – intervened on the side of the state to protect the public’s interest in the case. Modern building codes save citizens cash on utility payments while protecting the public health and environment from pollution and global warming gasses emitted by power plants that burn fossil fuels.


“This action will result in hundreds of dollars each year in energy savings for homeowners,” said Jim Crisp, executive director of the Michigan Community Action Agency Association. “In the long run, it will save the state and its citizens hundreds of millions of dollars in avoided energy cost by slowing the rate of energy use. It is a shame we’ve had to waste all this time in the courts when Michigan homeowners could have been reaping the benefits all along.”


The court rejected attempts by the Michigan Home Builders to challenge the rules with evidence that was neither developed nor presented to the state agency during the more than two-year rulemaking process.  The court held that any challenge to the rules must be limited to the rulemaking record – the evidence that the agency considered when it made its decision.  It paves the way for the implementation of the revised building energy code by the state’s Department of Labor and Economic Growth (DLEG). 


 “We are pleased that the Michigan Supreme Court affirmed the wide latitude of state agencies to issue rules, and the very narrow basis to challenge government action. The decision effectively upholds the authority of the director of DLEG to safeguard consumer interests by upgrading Michigan’s energy code, “said Alecia Ward, President and CEO of the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance.


“Governor Granholm has been a strong advocate for smart, modern standards and it is heartening to see that her work on this issue is finally going to come to fruition,” Ward said.


In December 2004, after almost two years of a public rulemaking, the State of Michigan issued updated rules governing the standard for energy use in new homes. The Home Builders sued, effectively blocking the new rules while the case wound its way through the courts.


“Up until now, homeowners across the state have been denied a reasonable energy standard by the legal maneuvers of the Michigan Association of Home Builders,” said Lana Pollack, president of the Michigan Environmental Council.  “The sooner this rule is implemented, the better – people across the state who just barely qualified for home ownership are struggling to pay both their rising mortgage costs and their growing energy bills because the houses they bought did not meet this standard.”