In August, the Air-Conditioning, Heating, & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) and Lennox Intl. Inc. filed a petition asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit to review the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) final rule establishing energy conservation standards for walk-in coolers and freezers (WICF). The DOE, AHRI said, did not follow proper protocol when developing the rule and issued standards that many in the industry — including HARDI — feel are neither technologically feasible nor economically justifiable with the technology currently available.
“We applaud AHRI and Lennox’s efforts to hold the DOE accountable,” said Jon Melchi, HARDI’s director of government affairs. “It’s what we, as an organization, have aimed at for quite some time. It’s unfortunate that we have to take matters to the judicial system, but it’s why that branch exists, and hopefully the courts will see it proper to hold the DOE accountable to its own processes.”
Waiting on the DOE
On May 27, AHRI and Zero Zone Inc., a manufacturer of refrigerated display cases and refrigeration systems, submitted a petition for court review of the DOE’s final rule establishing energy conservation standards for commercial refrigeration equipment. With the Aug. 4 petition, AHRI and Lennox allege the DOE has again failed to follow its own rulemaking process.
With the DOE denying AHRI’s petition for reconsideration on Sept. 23, AHRI said it now plans to move forward with its lawsuit against the DOE, which had previously been held in abeyance while awaiting the DOE’s response to the petition for reconsideration. In response, HARDI indicated it will continue to support AHRI’s efforts.
“We’re disappointed in the Department of Energy’s decision [to deny the petition for reconsideration] and support the manufacturers’ efforts to fix not only this particular rule but this broken process, which has continually led to conflict between the DOE and our industry,” Melchi said. “We’ll be consulting with our HARDI leadership and industry partners to decide the best path forward in being supportive of AHRI’s efforts.”
Follow the Rules
“It’s unfortunate that our industry has to continue to, after many attempts at providing information and working in good faith during these processes, turn to the legal system for remedy in hopes of forcing the department to do what they should’ve done all along,” Melchi said. “I think we’ve been on the record as stating this rulemaking is going to have a negative impact on our industry and consumers, who are going to be faced with higher costs and fewer choices.”
“Yes, it’s rulemaking,” Yurek added, “but it’s really dealing with the broken rulemaking process where DOE is not as transparent as they should be. They’re moving as quickly as they can to move rules forward instead of doing it right. We’re hoping it doesn’t become a trend.”
Charlie McCrudden, senior vice president of government relations for ACCA, said his organization also believes the standards were developed unfairly. He stressed that ACCA will be closely following the lawsuit.
“Like the commercial refrigeration standard, we were disappointed that the energy-efficiency standard for walk-in coolers and freezers was set very high and seemed to ignore stakeholder comments about the economic justification and the technical feasibility,” McCrudden said. “Our members don’t manufacture these products, but they sell and install them. It poses an extra level of responsibility and complexity.”
Melchi also noted that, in the wake of the regional standards lawsuit, it seems as though a disturbing trend may be developing.
“We’re beginning to see a pattern of overzealous regulation, and it’s imperative that, as the DOE develops regulations, they follow the rules and make sure the i‘s are dotted and the t’s are crossed. Yet, over and over again, we’ve seen a failure to do so,” he said. “It’s unclear at times on how the department arrives at the conclusions that they do, and there are a lot of folks in the industry that felt, despite many efforts to engage the DOE, the information the industry has provided is falling on deaf ears, and that the industry’s insight is really not being taken into account.”
Industry Bands Together
For now, AHRI, HARDI, ACCA, and other interested parties are waiting for the court to respond to the petition for court review of the WICF standard. Meanwhile, HARDI has pledged its continuing support, and ACCA has intervened in the lawsuit on AHRI’s behalf.
“ACCA’s interest in this case is based on the fact that contractors, the assemblers of WICF, are considered the manufacturer; because the product is assembled onsite and charged onsite, the manufacturer is, in the traditional view, the contractor, or the installer,” McCrudden said. “That’s why ACCA has an elevated interest in this case, and that’s why the organization has filed as an intervener.”
In the end, Yurek said everyone has the same end goal, and working together is going to be key.
“The important thing is that we have the same ultimate goals,” Yurek said. “We want to produce high-quality equipment that uses resources efficiently, and provide safe products, and we want to make sure they’re done right.”
“Nobody wants to have an adversarial relationship with the regulatory industry,” Melchi added. “But when you feel that the agency isn’t taking into account all the things mandated by law, and they’re not following guidelines set, and it’s having a negative impact on people’s livelihoods, you’ve got no choice.”
Lennox representatives did not return requests for comment before this issue went to print.
Information courtesy of HARDI. For more information on the working group, including meeting dates and webinar information, visit http://bit.ly/Regional StandardsASRAC.