Heating and AC distributors file petition against Energy Dept.

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry may have cursed his memory when he forgot the Department of Energy during a Republican debate in Michigan, but some in the heating and air-conditioning industry would certainly like to also forget the DOE.

Heating, Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI), a self-described voice of wholesale distribution within the HVACR industry, has filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit, through their attorneys, against a new DOE rule which establishes regional standards for air conditioners, heat pumps and furnaces.

The new rules, which go into effect in May 2013, divide the country into three regions with different minimum efficiency standards for HVAC appliances.

According to the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP), the new regional standards will mean that a typical new air conditioner in the South will use 40 percent less energy, and a typical new furnace in the North will use about 20 percent less energy “than before national standards were established in the late 1980s.”

“Climates as different as those of Minneapolis and Miami need different furnace and AC standards,” said Andrew deLaski, executive director of ASAP, in a statement. “Until now, we’ve had one-size-fits-all national standards. These new, regional standards are a major breakthrough that will benefit consumers and the environment.”

Cause of Action, representing HARDI, however, claims that the new standards will result in the loss of nearly 17,000 jobs, $7 million in lost wages and that the elderly will be disproportionately affected because they will not be able to recover the costs associated with purchasing more expensive yet energy efficient appliances.

The group is seeking judicial intervention on the grounds that the DOE did not follow proper procedures when adopting the so-called direct final rule, mandating the regional standards.

“An agency will do this [direct final rule] when it feels like there is no controversy or debate on what the rule is going to be,” Cause of Action’s executive director Dan Epstein told The Daily Caller. “Under the authority that the Department of Energy promulgated this rule — which was under the Energy Independence and Security Act [of 2007] — under that authority an agency can issue a direct final rule under that act but it has to withdraw the direct final rule if it receives any adverse comments from the public which may provide a ‘reasonable basis for withdrawing that rule.’”

In this circumstance, the DOE determined that it did not receive adverse comments that would have provided a “reasonable basis for withdrawing that rule” and made the rule final.

According to HARDI and Cause for Action, however, the DOE disregarded the industry’s concerns when considering a “consensus agreement” and issued the direct final rule despite opposition from the industry.

HARDI is concerned that this ruling could set a poor precedent.

“If we were to simply ignore this abuse of statutory process, all federal agencies would remain unchecked,” HARDI Director of Government Affairs Jon Melchi told an HVACR contractor’s weekly news magazine. “This rule completely changes the nature of HVAC distribution forever going forward and for the DOE to not impart all due diligence in creating a regulation that impacts the livelihoods of businesses and individuals is counter to the way the regulatory process is supposed to work. This process is a perfect example of why small businesses are angry with Washington, D.C. Our voices and views were not considered.”

The motion to intervene was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and joins the American Public Gas Association’s current lawsuit against the DOE.

The DOE did not respond to requests for comment.

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