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Gas Association Slams Proposed Furnace Efficiency Standards Following DOE Revision

The Department of Energy (DOE) released a revised version of its updated efficiency standards for residential gas furnaces late last week, quickly drawing a strong rebuke from industry lobbyists.

DOE released a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPR) Friday that revised a notice of proposed rulemaking published in March 2015. According to DOE, the SNPR, among other changes, adds a separate product class for small furnaces in response to comments the agency received.

But DOE’s changes didn’t do enough to address more fundamental problems with the proposed standards, according to the American Gas Association, which released a scathing critique of the SNPR Saturday.

“AGA is profoundly disappointed that DOE has blatantly ignored well-substantiated concerns expressed by numerous stakeholders, including natural gas utilities, during the past three years of continued discussions about these energy conservation standards for residential furnaces,” CEO Dave McCurdy said.

“Throughout this process, AGA has brought a rigorous, fact-based approach to our engagement on this rulemaking. We have identified serious structural flaws and have worked consistently to underscore the negative consequences of these flaws, but time and time again these concerns have been put aside -- it is now more clear than ever that the [Obama administration] is more focused on political expedience over technical accuracy.”

The AGA has been highly critical of DOE’s proposed rule since it was revealed last year, even taking the unusual step of filing a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain documents related to the rule’s development (see Daily GPI, April 6, 2015). AGA has held that the new rule would “impose significant economic burdens on American consumers,” that it could create “unintended environmental consequences” and that DOE has overestimated the energy savings that would result.

On Saturday, McCurdy pointed to DOE’s own technical analysis as evidence that the rule would hurt consumers, particularly low-income consumers in the southern United States. DOE’s technical support documents show “that its rule would cause economic harm to significant fractions of low income consumers...so it seems DOE agrees that the people who will ultimately bear the costs of the Obama Administration’s short-sightedness are some of the nation’s most vulnerable,” he said.

AGA will pursue legal action, if necessary, to address its concerns with the proposed rule, McCurdy said.

“The rule will have the effect of eliminating workable options for gas furnaces for many homeowners and renters, who will be forced to make hard choices about whether to repair an existing gas furnace beyond recommended operation, or to use more expensive alternatives that are far less clean for their home heating,” he said. “If we do not see major changes to this proposed rule before it is finalized, AGA will absolutely look for recourse in the courts, and we are fairly certain we will not be the only organization to do so.”

DOE will collect comments on the SNPR for 30 days following its publication in the Federal Register.

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