The following is a chronological progression of events involving regional standards for nonweatherized residential furnaces, central air conditioners, and heat pumps. This list was last updated on April 19, 2013.

Dec. 19, 2007 — President George W. Bush signs the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) into law. The legislation provides Bush the authority to establish regional standards for residential furnaces and central air conditioning equipment. 

• Oct. 13, 2009 — A group of HVACR manufacturers and energy efficiency advocates signed a consensus agreement designed to improve regional energy-efficiency standards and building codes. The signatories, including Air-Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), Alliance to Save Energy, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, and more than a dozen HVACR manufacturers, proposed that the standards could save consumers as much as $13 billion in energy costs by 2030.

• Jan. 15, 2010 — AHRI and efficiency advocates officially submit their regional standards consensus agreements to DOE. 

• March 11, 2010 — DOE publishes a rulemaking analysis plan requesting recommendations from stakeholders. Numerous parties begin to provide affirmation and opposition to the consensus agreement. 

• June 27, 2011 — The Department of Energy (DOE) opens the public comment period on its regional standards rulemaking, accepting statements through Oct. 17, 2011. 

• Oct. 25, 2011 — The DOE adopts its regional standards, dividing the country into three regions (North, South, and Southwest), with the minimum efficiency standards for equipment varying by type and area. The new rules for nonweatherized furnaces will become effective May 1, 2013; and for weatherized furnaces, central air conditioners, and heat pumps, Jan. 1, 2015. 

• Dec. 23, 2011 — The American Public Gas Association (APGA) filed an appeal of the regional standards rule in the U.S. court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit. APGA argued that the DOE erred in using the direct final rule process in the context of the case in issuing a rule that bans the noncondensing furnace in the northern region and in adopting a new standard that will cause fuel switching, which is without economic justification. In challenging the rule, AGPA asked the court to vacate the rule and remand the Direct Final Rule for a clean round of notice and comment rulemaking.

• June 6, 2012 — The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) releases a notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR) on an updated version of its yellow Energy Guide labels. The labels provide efficiency data and were heralded by many in the industry as a potential regional-standards enforcement tool.

• July 30, 2012 — As uncertainty continues to mount regarding the standards’ future, AHRI formally petitions the DOE for an 18-month extension for residential nonweatherized gas furnaces from the May 1, 2013 implementation date. AHRI’s request would have delayed compliance to Nov. 1, 2014.

• Jan. 11, 2013 — After several months of mediation, the APGA and DOE filed a joint motion to vacate and remand the rule setting new standards for nonweatherized natural gas furnaces. The pending settlement agreement, if accepted by the court, would rescind the furnace portion of the rule and eliminate the May 1, 2013 implementation date. DOE would remand the rule for a further notice and comment period. 

• Jan. 25, 2013 — Heating, Air-conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) filed a motion to continue the regional standards case, substituting themselves in as the petitioner in place of APGA. HARDI argued that by continuing the case, they hoped to rescind the central air conditioner and heat pump standards, in addition to the furnace standard. 

• Feb. 7, 2013 — AHRI filed a motion in opposition of HARDI’s request to substitute as a petitioner, claiming that HARDI’s request came outside its legal window of opportunity. Additionally, the DOE claims that if HARDI’s motion is accepted, they’ll withdraw their support for the pending settlement agreement, thus threatening the reinstatement of a potential May 1, 2013 implementation date. 

• March 8, 2013 — AHRI files a request to stay the case

• April 5, 2013 — DOE releases a statement that declares they will not begin enforcing the regional standards mandates until the court rules on the pending settlement agreement. 

• May 1, 2013 — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled favorably on an emergency motion filed by AHRI requesting a stay of the May 1, 2013, compliance date for the implementation of regional furnace standards. The motion legally prevents the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) from applying the standards or enforcing them until the regional standards lawsuit is resolved.

• May 13, 2013 — APGA files a motion requesting that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit deny HARDI’s request to substitute as a petitioner. APGA’s motion further asked the court to grant the joint APGA-DOE settlement agreement, which would vacate the nonweatherized furnace portion of the furnace standards.

• May 28, 2013 —  HARDI and the DOE file responses to APGA's May 13 motion. The DOE's response supports APGA's motion. HARDI's response reiterates its desire to substitute as the petitioner in the case, which, if granted, would allow the HVAC distribution association to challenge not only the furnace portion of the regional energy-efficiency standards rule, but the air conditioners and heat pump portion as well. HARDI also asked the court to deny the APGA’s request to skip re-briefing the main issues, as the court requested in its May 1 ruling.

• Aug. 19, 2013 — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit orders the parties involved in the lawsuit to agree to a briefing schedule within 30 days. Specifically, the court ordered briefings on three issues: The settlement agreement between the American Public Gas Association (APGA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE); Heating, Air-conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International’s (HARDI’s) motion to continue the lawsuit; and the merits of the lawsuit itself. The court also denied a motion filed in May by APGA and supported by DOE and other petitioners asking the court to deny a request from HARDI to substitute as petitioner in the case.  

• Dec. 9, 2013 — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit adopts a briefing schedule submitted by parties involved in the regional standards lawsuit. The schedule gives parties until mid-April to brief the court on the three issues — the settlement agreement between the APGA and DOE, HARDI’s motion to continue the case, and the merits of the lawsuit itself. 

• Feb. 18, 2014 — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) files an abeyance motion, with consent of all parties involved in the ongoing lawsuit, to suspend the briefing schedule until March 3 to accommodate pending mediation. 

• March 3, 2014 — Parties in the lawsuit request a short extension to the March 3 deadline. According to court documents, by March 17, or sooner, all parties and intervener will “notify the court concerning the status of settlement negotiations, including approval and implementation. Counsel for all parties and intervener have authorized us to state that they do not oppose the relief requested in this motion."  

• March 11, 2014 — Parties in the case file a joint settlement motion with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The settlement agreement would vacate the regional furnace efficiency standards and restart the rulemaking process, giving stakeholders more opportunities to provide input throughout the rulemaking process. The settlement would also give the industry an 18-month sell-through period to comply with the Jan. 1, 2015, efficiency standards for split-system air conditioners in order to help avoid stranded inventory. Additionally, as part of the agreement, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has agreed not to penalize distributors as part of enforcement of the standard.

• April 24, 2014 — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit accepts the settlement agreement, officially ending the regional standards legal battle. 

Last Updated: 5/2/2014

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