The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) won a court victory this week, with a federal court issuing an opinion finding that provisions of the 2007 Albuquerque Energy Conservation Code relating to the energy efficiency of federally covered residential and commercial HVAC equipment and water heaters are preempted by federal law - specifically the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA).
Judge Martha Vazquez of the Federal District Court for the District of New Mexico issued an opinion and order on Jan. 25, 2012, in favor of AHRI.
It is the third ruling by Judge Vazquez on the case. On Oct. 3, 2008, Judge Vazquez issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of these provisions. On Sept. 10, 2010, Judge Vazquez granted in part and denied in part (without prejudice) AHRI motions for summary judgment.
In the latest opinion, Judge Vazquez confirmed her Sept. 10, 2010, rulings:
(1) The prescriptive energy efficiency standards in the 2007 Albuquerque code that are more stringent than federal minimum efficiency standards are preempted and cannot be saved from federal preemption by the availability of alternative code compliance paths.
(2) A particular performance-based code compliance option is preempted because it is based on a standard reference design that uses efficiency levels that exceed federal efficiency standards. Responding to a summary judgment motion filed by the city that essentially asked Judge Vazquez to reconsider her earlier rulings, she declined to do so and denied the city’s motion.
“We are gratified that Judge Vazquez agreed with AHRI that regardless of intentions, the law must be followed,” said AHRI General Counsel Joseph Mattingly. “Our member companies produce very energy efficient equipment and are at the forefront of popular efforts to curb energy use. But we have maintained all through this case that federal law is very clear, and we are happy that the judge agreed with us. We look forward to continuing to provide highly efficient heating, cooling, commercial refrigeration, and water heating equipment to people in Albuquerque and around the world.”
“AHRI is not opposed to using building codes to better enable installation of highly efficient equipment in new construction,” said Stephen Yurek, AHRI President and CEO. “In fact, we negotiated an agreement with energy efficiency advocates that would allow states and localities to use building codes to do just that, but we need Congress to pass legislation to make that happen. We are working very hard on Capitol Hill to ensure this gets done this year,” he said.
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