DOE publishes final Process Rule; additional comments requested by March 16

On Feb. 14, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) published the final version of its Process Rule that establishes the requirements DOE must follow when setting energy-efficiency standards under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA).

During a Jan. 29 conference call NAFEM held for members, two members of NAFEM’s legal team, Jeff Longsworth and Tammy Helminski, Barnes & Thornburg, summarized the contents of the pre-publication Process Rule and encouraged members to note a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that addresses one of the questions NAFEM raised in its prior comments that DOE has yet to resolve. (See “EPCA requirements” item below.)

“The association and its members have been working very hard for the past five years to get where we are today,” Longsworth noted. “Many of the revisions outlined in the new Rule stem back, in part, to some of the issues NAFEM raised in its commercial refrigeration equipment litigation in 2014 and were reiterated and expanded upon during a regulatory roundtable meeting NAFEM arranged with DOE legal counsel in 2017.”

Here is a summary of the key points in the new Process Rule. Following publication, DOE should begin the process to propose test procedures for automatic commercial icemakers, commercial refrigeration equipment and walk-in coolers/walk-in freezers. After DOE finalizes test procedures, the agency will then propose new energy-efficiency standards for these same classes of equipment.

EPCA requirements detailed; request for member comments forthcomingThrough discussion and formal comments, NAFEM stressed the need to follow EPCA requirements that a new or amended standard is needed only if it results in significant energy conservation that is technologically feasible and cost effective. In response, DOE issued a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to consider changing from its current “walk down” approach to a comparative analysis.

In the ‘walk down’ approach, DOE only looks at whether the costs outweigh the benefits for a given set of technologies, starting with the most-stringent level that is technologically feasible. Instead, DOE proposed a new approach that compares the costs and benefits between different sets of technologies. DOE believes this approach will better address whether a new standard is economically justified.

The comment period for the new approach, outlined in the proposed rulemaking, ends March 16. To contribute to NAFEM’s comments, contact Charlie Souhrada.