August 12, 2015
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted an unopposed joint motion to vacate parts of a 2014 Department of Energy (DOE) Final Rule setting 19 energy conservation standards for walk-in coolers and freezers (WICF), including standards for panels and doors. The controversial rule was challenged by Lennox International, Inc., and the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) nearly one year ago after numerous errors in the development of the standards were discovered.
ACCA, which also found problems in the rulemaking process, joined the lawsuit as an Intervenor on the side of AHRI arguing that DOE inadequately analyzed the Final Rule’s impacts on the small business contractors who assemble WICF.
Under the terms of the settlement, DOE will withdraw six energy conservation standards: two applicable to multiplex condensing refrigeration units operating at medium and low temperatures; and four standards applicable to dedicated condensing refrigeration units operating at low temperatures. DOE will convene a working group under the Appliance Standards and Rulemaking Federal Advisory Committee (ASRAC) to conduct a negotiated rulemaking to set new standards.
In addition, during the negotiated rulemaking DOE will consider any comments regarding any potential impacts of these six standards on installers, including its definition of WICF assemblers as manufacturers.
“The settlement is a win for commercial contractors and vindicates our position that the DOE did not address issues ACCA raised during the notice and comment phase of the rulemaking,” said Paul T. Stalknecht, ACCA president and CEO. “The 2014 standard considers the small business contractors who install WICF equipment as the ‘manufacturer,’ since they assemble the various components on site. This potentially makes the contractor responsible for meeting the energy conservation standards that typically apply to manufactures. If the DOE wants to treat contractors as manufacturers, they have to afford them the same considerations and review during the Manufacturer Impact Analysis, something they did not do.”
Thirteen other standards in the 2014 rule (four standards applicable to dedicated condensing refrigeration systems operating at medium temperature, three standards applicable to panels, and six standards applicable to doors) were not withdrawn and will remain in effect. These standards will not be enforced until January 1, 2020, as long as the negotiated rulemakemaking result in consensus standards for the remanded standards before January 22, 2015.
Finally, DOE will take certain steps to establish a process in which parties can petition to address errors in rulemakings in order to avoid legal challenges in the future.
DOE has already published a Federal Register notice seeking nominations for representatives on the working group. The working group’s first meeting will be August 27, 2015 in Washington, DC.