ARLINGTON, Va. - The Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) has expressed disappointment at a decision by the U.S. Appeals Court for the Second Circuit in New York which found that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) did not follow proper procedures when it adopted a 12 SEER standard for central air conditioners, replacing the Clinton administration's 13 SEER rule.

"We are disappointed that such an important decision affecting homeowners in all 50 states should be determined on process rather than on the impact of the regulation on millions of people. We will take some time to review the court's decision with counsel and then make a decision on what options best serve consumers and energy conservation," said William G. Sutton, ARI president.

"Our options include requesting further review of the Second Circuit's decision and pursuing our challenge of the 13 SEER rule before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Unlike the Second Circuit's decision, which was based on procedural grounds, the Fourth Circuit would be reviewing DOE regulations to determine whether the standard was economically justified for consumers and manufacturers."

SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) is a measurement of air conditioner efficiency. Under current DOE regulations, manufacturers of residential sized central air conditioners cannot produce units below 10 SEER.

In its final days, the Clinton administration established a 13 SEER rule. The Bush administration decided to review that rule, and following hearings, DOE in May 2002 published a new 12 SEER standard for all central air conditioners and heat pumps manufactured after Jan. 26, 2006. However, the Natural Resources Defense Council and others filed a suit against the DOE action, stating that DOE had not followed proper procedures in the adoption of a 12 SEER rule.

In its decision, the New York appeals court said "the May 23, 2002 replacement standards [12 SEER rule] were promulgated in violation of that section [42 U.S.C. 6295(o)(1)] because DOE failed to effect a valid amendment of the original standards' [13 SEER] effective date, and as a consequence was thereafter prohibited from amending those standards downward."

The Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute is a trade association representing manufacturers of more than 90 percent of North American produced central air conditioning and commercial refrigeration equipment.

Publication date: 01/19/2004