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AHRI Keeps Pressure on DOE to Correct Errors in Walk-in Coolers Rule
Aug 11, 2014
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One core principle of the United States Energy Policy and Conservation Act is that efficiency rules be based on what is technologically feasible.

The Department of Energy (DOE) seems to have ignored that principle when it wrote the energy efficiency standards for commercial walk-in coolers and freezers (WICF) in a final rule released June 3, 2014. According to the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), DOE set efficiency levels above even its own determination of what the maximum technology is for some types of this equipment.

AHRI filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for review of the final rule.

AHRI had earlier submitted a petition to DOE for reconsideration under the Administrative Procedures Act, requesting that the agency correct errors in the final rule. AHRI President and CEO Stephen Yurek said he hopes the petition for reconsideration will lead to corrections to the final rule, and thus make the petition for review unnecessary.

AHRI was required to file a petition for review by August 4 in order to maintain its right to challenge the rule. AHRI will ask the court to hold the petition for review in abeyance until DOE responds to the petition for reconsideration.

The WICF rule establishes, for the first time, minimum energy efficiency standards expressed in terms of annual walk-in energy factor for various equipment classes. AHRI said this will significantly impact manufacturers and consumers of such equipment.

AHRI has another problem with the rule: DOE so substantially changed the rule between the notice of proposed rulemaking and issuance of the final rule (including adding 200 pages to the supporting analysis document) that, in AHRI’s view, a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking should have been issued to allow for additional stakeholder comment and review.

Yurek said DOE chose to ignore technical reality and declined to take the input necessary to ensure the rule was based on accurate information and analysis. "This has forced us to diverge from our preferred practice of collaboration and instead seek legal redress,” he said.

Yurek noted that AHRI has collaborated with DOE and other government agencies for decades on energy efficiency standards, to make them economically justified and technologically feasible, beneficial to consumers, and to "deliver actual energy savings rather than promote press release aspirations of energy savings."

This time, though, AHRI believes DOE exceeded its statutory authority and failed to comply with agency rulemaking requirements.

"As a result we have no choice but to challenge the legality of the rule," Yurek said.

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