As the summer draws to a close, developments in the regional standards case being heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit are coming in slowly. In its latest act, the court has denied the American Public Gas Association (APGA) motion that it deny HARDI’s request to substitute as petitioner in the case. The APGA was joined in its motion by the Department of Energy (DOE) and other petitioners such as Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) and the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). Bottom line: HARDI will have its’ day in court.

HARDI noted in a press release that it is pleased with the results and is looking forward to moving on with the process. Those involved in the motion to deny HARDI the ability to continue pursuing the case have been looking to move on with the new regional standards.
“In a sense, we’re starting over at the beginning,” said Charlie McCrudden, vice president of government relations at ACCA. “The order sidetracks the possibility of a quick resolution to this case that was sought in the previous motion.”

David Calabrese, AHRI's general counsel and senior vice president, public policy, said his organization’s members also want a resolution soon.

“We don’t want to delay the issue any further,” he said. “We just want this resolved and done so we can move on.”
Along with the motion denial, the court reissued an order requesting all parties involved in the regional standards lawsuit agree to a briefing schedule within the next 30 days.

“HARDI has consistently worked to expedite these proceedings as much as possible while fighting for what our members believe is right,” said Jon Melchi, HARDI’s government affairs director. “We could have completed this portion of the process by now — absent the newly-denied motion — so now we just have to focus on doing everything we can to help the court move as expeditiously as possible.”

HARDI noted that it attempted to comply with the initial order, but has been delayed by more than 100 days as the court assessed the now-denied motions from other parties.

“This is another affirmation by the court of HARDI’s standing in this case and the merits of our arguments,” said Brian Cobble, G.W. Berkheimer Co. and HARDI’s 2013 president. “It is regrettable that other parties chose to delay the court proceedings by attempting to reverse the court’s earlier decision. Now the path is cleared for the court to hopefully conclude this issue well in advance of the next 2015 implementation deadline in the favor of those who are likely to be most harmed by these unprecedented regionalized efficiency standards.”

Regional Standards Background
For those just joining the regional standards story, here is a summary of what has been occurring.

Authority for regional energy-efficiency standards was first authorized by Congress in 2007. The concept eventually matured into an OEM-supported government regulation mandating minimum-efficiency performance for nonweatherized natural gas furnaces, central air conditioners, and heat pumps, based on installation location.

As the paperwork was finalized and the industry inched toward the rule’s inaugural May 1, 2013 implementation date, the APGA filed a legal appeal of the standard, arguing that the DOE incorrectly utilized its direct final rule (DFR) process in issuing minimum-efficiency standards for nonweatherized natural gas furnaces, air conditioners, and heat pumps.

Eventually, the DOE and APGA reached a settlement agreement, which - pending court approval - would have vacated the furnace standard and remanded the rule for a fresh notice and comment period.

Several HVAC and environmental associations filed motions throughout the legal process, including HARDI, which filed a motion requesting that the court allow it to substitute as the petitioner in the case. If granted, HARDI could potentially extend the case’s scope beyond the furnace standards in question to include the DFR relating to central air conditioners and heat pumps.

Many parties have since sounded off on HARDI’s motion, including the DOE, which said if the court were to grant the request, they’d withdraw their support for a settlement, which could potentially cement the regional standards rule as law.

On May 13, APGA requested 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.

On May 28, HARDI filed a response to the APGA’s motion reiterating its desire to substitute as the petitioner in the case. HARDI asked the court to deny the APGA’s request to skip re-briefing the main issues, as the court suggested in its May 1 ruling.

But the DOE, along with several intervenors, also filed a joint response on May 28 in support of the APGA’s May 13 motion. Intervenors include AHRI; Alliance to Save Energy; American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy; ACCA; and others.