The House voted today (76-71) to give final passage to a bill, LD 1416, that would exempt more than 400 cities and towns, with 40% of Maine’s population, from the Maine Uniform Building & Energy Code. The code provides consumer protection, increases energy efficiency and reduces heating oil costs for Maine people by providing a minimum standard for new construction.
The existing statewide uniform code was strongly supported by builders, contractors and others because it increases uniformity and predictability, making economic development easier across the state. 40 other states have a statewide building and energy code as well.
“This rollback means that Maine will be one of only 10 states in the entire country that do not have a uniform building and energy code designed to protect consumers from purchasing homes that waste energy,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “The bill was overwhelmingly opposed by building professionals, energy experts, and the construction industry, yet false information and narrow ideology carried the day.”
“Going backwards on Maine’s uniform code won’t be good for our economy or good for my members,” said Charlie Huntington, President of the Maine Contractors & Builders Alliance. “It was a very disappointing vote for businesses that want to see uniformity and predictability in Maine.”
“I’m disappointed that Maine is going backwards in the adoption of a statewide uniform building code,” said Dick Tarr, head of Lapointe Lumber Co. Inc. “We’ve supplied building materials to hundreds of new homes and buildings around the state. A home is the largest investment that most people will make in their lifetime. Now new homes built in many communities around the state, won’t have a proven, reasonable set of codes and standards in place to help protect that investment.”
The Maine Uniform Building & Energy Code was passed in 2008 and created a uniform statewide code out of a frustrating and costly patchwork quilt of regulations. The law provided significant flexibility to municipal governments regarding enforcement of the code, and made enforcement optional in towns with populations under 2,000. LD 1416 goes way further by completely exempting every town under 4,000 people from even having a code.
“This legislation will make it much harder for Maine to reduce its dependence on heating oil,” said Voorhees. “A recent study showed that more than 85 percent of new homes in Maine were not built to a basic minimum efficiency standard. With so many Mainers paying high costs to heat older homes that are poorly weatherized, the least we should be doing is ensuring that new homes are built so that they do not waste energy. That’s what the code is for, but this bill now exempts more than 400 cities and towns.”
LD 1416 and several other pieces of legislation aimed at repealing or weakening building codes were overwhelmingly opposed by businesses at public hearings throughout the session. Builders, contractors and others who support having a statewide code outnumbered proponents of LD 1416 at the public hearing by a 3-1 margin. LD 1416 allows exempted towns to “opt in” to the code, but history has shown that this option is rarely utilized.
“Experience has shown that voluntary codes are not adopted, not enforced, and do not work,” said Russell Martin, an engineer from Freeport. “We need statewide uniform codes so that businesses, builders, and designers can all work on a level and consistent playing field.”
Building trade organizations representing more than 1,500 member businesses strongly opposed LD 1416. They included:
- Maine Contractors & Builders Alliance
- American Council of Engineering Companies of Maine
- Associated General Contractors
- Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Maine
- American Institute of Architects, ME Chapter
- Maine Association of Building Efficiency Professionals
- American Society of Heating, Refrigerating & Air-Conditioning Engineers, ME Chapter