ARLINGTON, Va. — The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) today announced that a settlement has been reached in litigation that it brought against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) challenging DOE’s final rule, issued June 3, 2014, setting energy efficiency standards for commercial walk-in coolers and freezers (WICF). The settlement comprehensively includes all parties to the litigation.

In briefs filed earlier this year, AHRI argued that DOE had erred in numerous ways in adopting the WICF rule — including by setting internally inconsistent standards that were unachievable using economically feasible technologies, by performing flawed cost-benefit work, and by failing to properly analyze small-business impacts. AHRI also stated that it had given DOE the opportunity to fix several of its errors in a petition for reconsideration. DOE maintained that it lacked the power to fix such errors absent a court order.

“It is unfortunate we had to file for judicial review, but we are pleased that we have been able to come to an amicable settlement agreement with DOE and other stakeholders,” said Stephen Yurek, AHRI president and CEO. “We look forward to the negotiated rulemaking process that DOE agreed to support. This will ensure that the energy-efficiency standards vacated in the settlement for the relevant equipment types are achievable and will deliver the energy savings and continued product utility at reasonable prices that DOE and consumers both expect.”

The settlement, which still requires approval by the 5th Circuit, includes the following provisions:

• Refrigeration standards for multiplex condensing systems at medium and low temperatures, and for dedicated condensing systems at low temperatures will be vacated. DOE will support the use of a negotiated rulemaking process concerning the vacated standards, with a targeted completion date of January 2016 for this negotiated rulemaking process.

• DOE will align WICF refrigeration enforcement dates by issuing an executive branch policy making clear that it will not enforce the remaining WICF refrigeration standards until January 1, 2020, provided that the anticipated negotiated rulemaking process delivers proposed standards to DOE by January 22, 2016. The WICF standards for doors and panels are not affected by the settlement.

• DOE will consider and substantively address as part of the negotiated rulemaking process any potential impacts of the standards on installers and smaller manufacturers.

• Within six months, DOE will initiate a public process to determine how it will address error corrections in future rulemakings. DOE has also committed to employ best efforts to finalize that process within one year of the settlement.

“AHRI had little choice last year but to file for judicial review, since DOE was interpreting the law as preventing the Department from making corrections to any final rules — not just this one,” said Yurek. “So, in addition to the opportunity to return to the drawing board and cooperatively develop lawful and rational standards for this equipment, this settlement will have the added benefit of providing a new means for addressing the error-correction issue in future rulemakings. AHRI will closely monitor what emerges from this new DOE policy initiative to ensure that it will add the necessary transparency and accountability to the energy-efficiency rulemaking process, and reduce the need for future litigation.”

Publication date: 7/30/2015

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