Feds to vacate energy efficiency rule, industry group says

The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) said that it has reached a settlement with the Department of Energy in litigation over the agency's energy efficiency standards for commercial walk-in coolers and freezers (WICF).

As part of the settlement, AHRI said the Energy Department has agreed to vacate its refrigeration standards for multiplex condensing systems at medium and low temperatures and for dedicated condensing systems at low temperatures. The agency is expected to propose new standards, created through a negotiated rulemaking process, by January 2016.

In challenging the Energy Department’s final rule issued June 3, 2014, the AHRI argued that the agency had set internally inconsistent standards, which were unachievable using economically feasible technologies, by performing flawed cost-benefit work and failing to properly analyze small-business impacts.

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As part of the settlement, which still needs to be approved the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the Energy Department will not enforce the remaining WICF refrigeration standards until Jan. 1, 2020, as long as the negotiated rulemaking process delivers proposed standards by Jan. 22, 2016.

The AHRI also said the agency has agreed to consider any potential impacts the standards could have on installers and smaller manufacturers and initiate a public process for addressing error corrections in future rulemakings within six months.

 “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,” AHRI President and CEO Stephen Yurek said in a news release. “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."  

The Energy Department could not immediately be reached for comment.