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Dry R-22 Units Under the Gun

June 27, 2011
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Mike Murphy

Trapped in a middle ground between Pulitzer-caliber journalism and public relations drivel, there are few places to aggressively wield the power of the pen, which would definitely be a great stress relief mechanism for overworked old editors - if it were only possible.

That’s why I love the government. One could pick almost any agency to rant about without getting in much trouble; the person (Republican) who receives The NEWS won’t share it with anyone else (Democrats), so I’m sure this missive will fall mostly on a deaf ear. So, today, let’s take a shot across the bow at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

BANG-BANG

To get you in the mood, first recall a front-page story that graced our cover on June 13: “Carrier Asks EPA to Stop Dry R-22 Units.” That story, by the way, generated more comments online than anything we had published in recent memory, and topped the charts when it ran in our Monday morning enewsletter. The range of comments cast Carrier Corp. as everything from an evil empire to an industry torch bearer. As you might guess, the EPA did not fare so well in the common court of opinions.

As the folks at Carrier would tell you, in the interest of full disclosure, they also are manufacturing and selling dry R-22 units along with all major unitary manufacturers in the United States. John Mandyck, Carrier vice president, sustainability & environmental strategies, said, “It became clear to us that the market was moving faster than the government could act, so we moved with the market to remain competitive, but if EPA banned the manufacture of dry R-22 condensing units today we would support that move …”

In an interview, Mandyck told me that the EPA “asked a lot of good questions,” during a meeting held more than a month ago, at which time the petition by Carrier was initially filed. Unfortunately, when The NEWS spoke to the EPA for the June 13 article, we must not have asked any good questions - because the EPA sidestepped nearly every one of them.

Hailing from some old time political stock in the South, I, for one, can certainly appreciate some good old fashioned posturing. It’s the way the world works in front of the closed doors. Behind the closed doors is where people more often speak their true mind.

However, the fact that the EPA and the Department of Energy (DOE) seem to be at quite opposite poles with regard to the affect that dry R-22 units will have in the industry, the economy, and on the environment, is disconcerting, and deserving of better answers.

LOOPHOLES

Drusilla Hufford, director Stratospheric Protection Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would not acknowledge the fact that seven major HVAC manufacturers will build upwards of 600,000 units in 2011, an amount that will begin to gnaw away at the energy efficiency savings that resulted from the 13 SEER Rulemaking of January 2006.

Understandably, Hufford did not suggest a timeline for a final resolution regarding the Carrier petition. It is understandable that she would not want to acknowledge any mistake on behalf of the EPA in regard to the unforeseen ramifications of the loophole that allows the manufacture of dry R-22 units. That kind of posturing by an agency official is OK. Refusing to acknowledge that seven industry manufactures have reopened assembly lines for the express purpose of building units that will routinely be mismatched in the field, thus creating the possibility of installed systems that do not meet the 13 SEER minimum - that is not OK.

Why would the dry R-22 units not meet the minimum? The DOE still has not yet issued anything past a preliminary guidance as to how to rate the efficiency of the dry R-22 units; something that has probably been the result of a little confusion about most popular coil matches.

In the jargon of some old Southern politicians, that means Katy, bar the door. Or, said another way, take precautions, there is trouble ahead.

There, I feel better. The stress is rolling away. But, I really hope the one person in the government who is subscribing to The NEWS does not cancel their subscription, because that will probably get me in trouble.

Publication date: 06/27/2011
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