“We reinforced our authority in the workforce policy and energy policy space.”
- Mark Valentini
vice president of legislative affairs
Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors–National Association

HVAC and plumbing professionals got their steps in during recent conferences in Washington, D.C.

The last full week of May saw HVACR and plumbing trade groups make the trek to Capitol Hill to talk to federal lawmakers about issues that impact their industries.

“I walked across the Hill three times,” while visiting the offices of Senate and House of Representatives members, said Francis Dietz, vice president of public affairs at the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). “That’s a good, healthy walk.”

The AHRI’s 2024 Policy Symposium brought more than 200 members, along with AHRI staffers and others in HVAC, to Washington for the lobbying effort, plus panel discussions, keynote speeches, and networking. The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors–National Association (PHCC) was also in town, with more than 100 member contractors and strategic partners convening there for the group’s annual Legislative Conference.

PHCC members visited more than 125 Congressional offices, usually meeting with staffers, but also with more than two dozen House and Senate members, said Mark Valentini, the group’s vice president of legislative affairs. Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Mississippi, were among the lawmakers with whom the PHCC met in person.

Tops on the PHCC’s agenda were advocating for HVAC fuel choice, a slower approach to building electrification and decarbonization, and support for apprenticeships and training programs for skilled trades workers.

“We reinforced our authority in the workforce policy and energy policy space,” Valentini said.

The greatest consensus, Valentini said, was found around workforce development issues, such as the renewal of the National Apprenticeship Act. “It’s a strong bipartisan issue,” Valentini said.

On fuel choice and slowing the electrification movement, he said, Republicans were generally receptive but Democrats a bit less so. “There were some Democratic offices that agreed those policies were a little aggressive,” Valentini added.

The PHCC also pushed for more transparency in the way the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) incentives for energy-efficient HVAC, which are being managed by individual states and territories, are being rolled out. So far, only the state of New York has won Department of Energy (DOE) approval of funding for the IRA’s Home Electrification and Appliance Rebates. More than a dozen other states have submitted funding applications.

Valentini said he’s advising PHCC members to work with the energy offices in their respective states as rebate plans come together. “It would be nice for the contracting community to have their input,” he said. “They’re the ones doing the installs.”

AHRI members, Dietz said, also spoke to their Senate and House members about the IRA.

“I think it’s moving along,” though “not as quickly as anybody would’ve liked,” Dietz said. “Probably, the beginning of next year, it will be a well-oiled machine.”

AHRI has been working closely with federal officials on the implementation of the IRA’s incentives, he said.

Also on the agenda for AHRI during the congressional visits, Dietz said, was the ongoing refrigerant transition and building decarbonization. AHRI members visited about 75 legislative offices, he said.

“Our goal is to always get members more comfortable with interacting with their legislators,” Dietz said. “It kind of takes the mystique out of it.”

During sessions at the AHRI’s Policy Symposium headquarters at the Westin Hotel, members heard from former White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator during former President Barack Obama’s second term; John Podesta, senior adviser to President Joe Biden for clean energy innovation and implementation; and Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher of the non-partisan Inside Elections.

The PHCC, which based its Legislative Conference at the Yotel hotel, a few blocks from the Capitol, hosted former U.S. representatives Martin Frost, a Democrat from Texas, and Tom Davis, a Republican from Virginia, as keynote speakers. The two are co-authors of the book “The Partisan Divide: Congress in Crisis.” They presented an insiders’ view of Congress, Valentini said, that was different from those usually offered by political pundits.

Members of both groups, along with members of Heating, Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) also attended a joint evening reception, held in the Caucus Room of the historic Cannon House Office Building.

Both groups are planning a return trip to Washington for next year. The PHCC’s next Legislative Conference is scheduled for May 20-21, 2025, and the next AHRI Policy Symposium is set for May 19-21, 2025.