By Ronald L. Perl, Esq.

The high efficiency furnace rules case has taken a new procedural turn. On May 1, 2013, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an emergency order staying implementation of the new rules requiring non-weatherized gas furnaces installed in the northern regions of the country to be 90% efficient.  That order did not resolve the case but rather simply put on hold the application of the proposed regulations until the court actually rules on the propriety of a settlement agreement entered by the parties. The effect of this ruling is that the new standards did not take effect on May 1, 2013 as initially proposed, but no decision has yet been made whether they will take effect on a future date.

For those who have been following the issue, in 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) promulgated new energy conservation standards for air conditioners and heating units. A portion of the new standards applies to new installations of non-weatherized gas furnaces on or after May 1, 2013 and increases the efficiency requirements of those units from 78% to 90%. A lawsuit challenging the furnace standards on both substantive and procedural grounds was filed by the American Public Gas Association. The lawsuit was settled last year, and for several months, the settlement has been awaiting the approval of the appeals court. The DOE announced in April that it would not begin enforcing the new rules before the court rules on the settlement agreement. The recent court ruling neither approved nor disapproved the settlement but stayed implementation of the new rules, thus officially preventing the DOE from enforcing the rules for the time being. It also set some procedural requirements for the eventual hearing on the merits.

The proposed standards are significant to community associations because the new furnaces vent much differently than existing ones and require modifications to units and common elements, which may be difficult or impossible because of space limitations or building code issues.

You can view the District of Columbia Circuit’s order here.

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