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Court vacates DOE furnace efficiency rule


From the May 2, 2014 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published May 2, 2014

By Robert Varela
Editorial Director
A federal appeals court approved a joint motion to vacate the Energy Department’s 2011 direct final rule setting furnace efficiency standards. In March, the American Public Gas Association (APGA), DOE, and the other parties filed the joint motion in the case (APGA v. DOE). As part of a settlement with APGA, DOE agreed to withdraw the direct final rule and initiate a traditional notice-and-comment rulemaking for new furnace efficiency standards. By approving the motion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the original rule and remanded the proceeding for a notice and comment rulemaking. 

By establishing a 90 percent fuel efficiency standard for furnaces in the northern region of the United States, the regulation would have eliminated non-condensing gas furnaces from the northern region and likely driven many consumers in that region to less efficient electric furnaces, APGA said. The association filed its petition for review with the court in December 2011.

APGA members "recognized two essential wrongs in this rulemaking: first, trying to implement a change via direct final rule on a contested and complex matter with many stakeholders; and, second, adopting an efficiency standard that benefits a few to the detriment of many," said APGA President and CEO Bert Kalisch. "APGA looks forward to working with DOE and other stakeholders on a new furnace efficiency standard that serves the best interests of American consumers, regardless of region or financial wherewithal."

The direct final rule would have inadvertently deterred consumers from purchasing more efficient direct use natural gas appliances due to the high upfront costs associated with the only furnace type—condensing furnaces—that could meet the rule’s 90 percent annual fuel utilization efficiency standard, APGA said.
 

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Meena Dayak
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