Judge offers tepid support for residential energy code adoption

Administrative Law Judge Eric Lipman issued his non-binding recommendation on the adoption of the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), recommending opening rulemaking. His comments, issued in October, also noted that the agency could wait until the 2024 model codes are published. 

“Accordingly, between the two alternatives presented to the Commissioner today, the Administrative Law Judge recommends a resort to rulemaking,” wrote Lipman. In his final paragraph, he noted, “With all of that said, the hearing record would support either the choice to move forward with a rulemaking or wait until promulgation of the 2024 version of the IECC.” 

In 2020, Lipman recommended the Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) not open rulemaking on the 2018 IECC, a decision that was affirmed by DLI’s commissioner. 

“On volume, Minnesota builds the most energy-efficient homes in the country, and we have to stop looking at new homes as a problem in terms of efficiency and see them as the solution that they are,” said Nick Erickson, senior director of housing policy of Housing First Minnesota. “Opening rulemaking while interest rates are at a 20-year high, and Minnesota’s new home costs are at an all-time high will further threaten homeownership in our state.” 

In a letter to DLI, James Vagle, CEO of Housing First Minnesota, asked the agency not to open rulemaking, noting that rulemaking is a lengthy process and the technical review of the 2024 model codes will soon begin. 

In addition to Housing First Minnesota, Central Minnesota Builders Association and Builders Association of Minnesota opposed opening rulemaking during the public comment period. 

“We already build incredibly energy-efficient homes,” said Wanda Schroder, executive director of Central Minnesota Builders Association, in response to the judicial recommendation. “We do not need to pile on more regulatory costs when we face a serious crisis in housing availability and affordability.” 

Should DLI wait to open rulemaking until the 2024 IECC is ready, the process would happen concurrently with the rest of the ICC model code review. The technical review of the 2024 I-Codes will likely begin in 2024 with the codes put in place in March 2026. 

The final decision on opening rulemaking will be made by DLI’s commissioner. At the time of printing, Nicole Blissenbach is the agency’s temporary commissioner. The agency has yet to announce whether or not it will open rulemaking.