West / Regional Reports

California Energy Commission’s Amendments Challenged

August 5, 2002
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The California Office of Administrative Law (OAL) recently disapproved the California Energy Commission’s (CEC’s) amendments of its Title 20 Appliance Efficiency Regulations and related amendments of its Title 24 Building Standards.

The OAL’s reasons for disapproving the regulations are set forth in a document it recently released, “Decision of Disapproval of Regulatory Action.”

The CEC adopted amendments to its Title 20 and Title 24 standards on February 6, 2002. The amended regulations prescribed new information reporting and product marking requirements for HVAC equipment, water heaters, and other products, effective July 1, 2002. Plus, it called for new test procedures and efficiency standards for under 20-gallon storage water heaters, effective March 1, 2003.

During the CEC rulemaking procedure, the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA) strongly challenged the new requirements as violations of federal preemption. However, the CEC went through with its amendments.

STEPPING IN

Now the OAL has stepped in to disapprove the amended regulations, based mostly on administrative defects. OAL said CEC failed to transmit the amended regulations to the California Building Standards Commission for approval. According to OAL, the CEC was required to obtain the approval of the Building Standards Commission because the CEC amended its Title 24 Building Standards to incorporate its amended Title 20 regulations. The OAL did not mention federal preemption issues in its disapproval of the CEC regulations.

According to GAMA, the CEC must now correct the defects and obtain Building Standards Commission approval of the amended regulations before they can be sent back to OAL for final approval. According to GAMA, new effective dates will have to be established for the new requirements.

“We are not sure how long this approval process will take, but it could take several months, or even longer,” said a GAMA spokesperson.

Subsequent to the OAL’s disapproval, the CEC quickly submitted the Building Standards amendments to the Building Standards Commission. However, in a late June notice to the CEC, the Building Standards Commission declined to consider the amended CEC regulations because the CEC had failed to obtain Building Standards Commission approval of its rulemaking proceeding to amend its Title 24 Building Standards, as required by law.

While the CEC is deciding how to proceed, GAMA and several other industry associations submitted last month (July) a joint statement to both the CEC and the Building Standards Commission to address federal preemption issues “in a further effort to avoid litigation.” GAMA said it has been authorized by its Board of Directors to join with other associations in suing CEC on federal preemption grounds if the CEC continues to reject federal preemption claims.

FURTHER LOOK

As part of its proceedings to update the Title 24 standards, the CEC is considering requirements to verify duct leakage and do duct sealing at the time of HVAC equipment replacement in existing residential buildings. The proposal received mixed reviews at a CEC workshop, held late May in Sacramento.

The two main proposed changes are: 1) a requirement that duct systems be sealed and tested at the time an air conditioner, heat pump, or furnace is replaced or installed in an existing building; and 2) a requirement that new, replacement, or added ductwork in existing buildings have an insulation level of R-8, in addition to sealing and testing.

If triggered by HVAC equipment installation, ducts would be required to be sealed to achieve a level of measured leakage of less than 10% of fan flow for the supply and return ductwork combined, including the HVAC cabinet and plenums.

Representatives from the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), The Trane Company, and Lennox International were at the May hearing and voiced their respective concern. According to Karim Amrane, ARI’s director of public policy, ARI opposes the idea of linking HVAC unit replacement to the requirement to seal ductwork.

“ARI believes ducts should be properly sealed and insulated, but having a duct sealing requirement that would be triggered only when HVAC units are replaced, would make replacement a more expensive option, and it could be counter-productive,” said Amrane.

More information about CEC, its amended standards, and its proposed Building Energy Efficiency Standards for 2005 can be found at CEC’s website, www.energy.ca.gov/205_standards. Technical questions can be directed to the CEC’s Bryan Alcorn at 916-654-4222.

Publication date: 08/05/2002

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