DOE announces changes to 2020 Process Rule; rolls back standardized rulemaking process

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a new 2021 Final Process Rule. The new rule, effective Jan. 12, revises significant provisions of the 2020 Process Rule for establishing and amending energy conservation and test procedures for multiple categories of commercial foodservice equipment. The 2020 Rule required a standardized approach to establish and amend test procedures and energy conservation standards. The new Rule restores DOEs discretion to revert to more flexible rulemaking.

“DOE wants additional insulation from having to follow any rules or impinge on its unbridled discretion by seeking to remove any legal impediment to its actions,” said Charlie Souhrada, CFSP, NAFEM vice president, regulatory and technical affairs. “Such a lack of accountability and unlimited discretion will not provide economic stability or efficiency.”

Specifically, the new Process Rule:

  • Removes the threshold for determining when significant energy savings criteria are met.
  • Removes the requirement to provide a comparative analysis before setting new criteria.
  • Allows DOE to modify industry test procedure standards to comply with the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA).
  • Clarifies that DOE will engage stakeholders in negotiated rulemaking.

DOE says the new Process Rule will allow the agency to update standards more quickly for dozens of types of appliances and equipment. Two 2020 lawsuits – one by a coalition of states and another by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) ­– allege that the agency failed to meet rulemaking deadlines for 25 different categories of consumer and commercial equipment. DOE also points to reduced greenhouse gas emissions possible under the new Process Rule.

“It is good that DOE plans to continue publishing test procedures before finalizing energy conservation standards,” said Jeff Longsworth, NAFEM legal counsel, Barnes & Thornburg. “However, the new Process Rule even allows the agency to deviate from this process in unique circumstances that must be published in the Federal Register.”

NAFEM submitted extensive comments to DOE before it finalized the 2021 Process Rule. DOE’s response to these comments can be found by searching NAFEM in the document linked above.