The Trump administration is finalizing a rule that will make it harder to increase efficiency standards for some residential furnaces and commercial water heaters.
The new regulation makes it so that less efficient heaters that have a certain type of venting, called noncondensing venting, are considered a separate class of products, meaning that they will need to be regulated separately.
Critics say that this will hinder efforts from the incoming Biden administration to ramp up efficiency standards.
“The purpose of the rule is to tie the hands of the Biden administration,” Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, told The Hill.
DeLaski said that although each class of products can be regulated, if the next administration tried to regulate the noncondensing heaters, they would find that they “can’t increase the standard without eliminating the class and the statute doesn’t allow you to eliminate the class.”
A joint report from his group and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy last year found that new standards for residential furnaces is among the efficiency measures that could have the greatest potential carbon dioxide reduction.
The new interpretation comes at the request of gas industry groups.
They said in a 2018 petition that increasing the efficiency standards would make noncondensing heaters unavailable. They argued that this type of venting should be considered a “feature” that the government can’t legally eliminate from the market.
The new rule agrees with this interpretation. The Biden administration could promulgate its own interpretive rule that disagrees with the new Trump rule, but this would add an extra step to the regulatory process.
An unpublished version of the rule appeared online Thursday, though it is not slated for formal federal register publication until Friday.