COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Heating, Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) announced that it has filed a motion responding to the proposed regional standards lawsuit settlement filed on Jan. 11, 2013, by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the American Public Gas Association (APGA). The proposed settlement agrees to withdraw the pending minimum energy conservation standards, including regional standards, for residential non-weatherized and mobile home gas furnaces. HARDI has filed to continue the lawsuit because the proposal does not address concerns related to air conditioners and heat pumps.

Under the proposed settlement, DOE would be required to conduct a notice and comment rulemaking procedure establishing new energy conservation standards for non-weatherized and mobile home gas furnaces. However, the proposed settlement does not eliminate the new energy conservation standards for residential air conditioners and heat pumps, including regional energy efficiency standards for those products.

“HARDI does not believe that the APGA/DOE settlement addresses all of our concerns, therefore we are asking the court to allow us to substitute in for APGA and continue our concerns as they relate to abuses of the direct final rule process and central air conditioners,” said Jon Melchi, director of government affairs, HARDI.

According to the terms of the proposed settlement, the portions of the direct final rule (setting the minimum AFUE standards for residential non-weatherized and mobile home gas furnaces at 90 percent in the Northern region and 80 percent in the Southeastern and Southwestern regions) are vacated, along with the pending May 1 compliance date. The DOE also agreed that it will initiate a new rulemaking for residential furnaces and allow stakeholders the opportunity to comment.

“At the distributor town hall meeting held at the 2012 HARDI Annual Conference, we were unanimously directed by our distributor members to do everything reasonably possible to fight the implementation of regional standards,” said Brian Cobble, president, G.W. Berkheimer, and 2012-2013 HARDI president. “Since the proposed APGA/DOE settlement only addresses the furnace standard, HARDI felt compelled to file the motion with the court in order to address shortcomings in the cooling standard and missteps in the rulemaking process.”

If the court accepts this settlement, non-condensing furnaces would remain legal to install in all states until the DOE can write new regulations. Not only does this clear up the uncertainty about stranded inventory in the Northern region ahead of the May 1 deadline, but it also gives industry stakeholders the opportunity to be involved in the creation of any future rules.

The portions of the direct final rule setting new minimum energy efficiency standards for central air conditioners and heat pumps, including regional standards, remain in place, along with the Jan. 1, 2015, compliance date.

“We believe that the facts are on our side and that by allowing the case to continue the court would be allowing the many businesses that HARDI represents the fair and open process they were denied by the DOE’s abuse of the direct final rule process,” said Melchi.

The settlement is still pending the court’s approval.

Publication date: 1/28/2013