Court Strikes Down California Energy Rules

Special to CONTRACTOR SACRAMENTO, CALIF. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California has issued a permanent injunction enjoining the California Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission from enforcing its appliance marking, information filing and compliance regulations on a wide range of plumbing, heating and cooling products that are covered by the federal Energy

Special to CONTRACTOR

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. — The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California has issued a permanent injunction enjoining the California Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission from enforcing its appliance marking, information filing and compliance regulations on a wide range of plumbing, heating and cooling products that are covered by the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act.

In a decision issued June 13, “the court recognized the problems that come with a patchwork of state regulations and gave a significant victory to manufacturers and consumers by ensuring that the principle of one federal regulation not 50 separate state regulations govern the manufacturing of federally covered HVACR products and equipment,” said William G. Sutton, president of the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute.

The CEC had increasingly tried to regulate water heaters, boilers and HVAC equipment, said Joe Mattingly, chief counsel for the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association. The disclosure, reporting and labeling requirements became “quite onerous” over a period of years, Mattingly said, and manufacturers would not have been allowed to sell their products in California without meeting the requirements.

ARI, GAMA, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association filed a complaint with the federal court seeking relief from regulations promulgated by the CEC regarding federally “covered products” and “covered equipment” that are pre-empted expressly by the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act or EPCA. The federally covered products affected by the CEC’s regulations were air conditioners and heat pumps, package terminal air conditioners, water heaters and furnaces, as well as other residential and commercial appliances.

The court found that the federal regulations were adopted to address the “situation where appliance manufacturers were confronted with the problem of a growing patchwork of differing state regulations which could increasingly complicate their design, production and marketing plans. Regulations in a few populous states could as practical matters determine the product lines sold nationwide, even in states where no regulations existed.”

In enjoining the CEC’s regulations, the court found that “allowing each state to submit different pieces of information about their products opens the door to the creation of the precise situation that Congress sought to avoid in passing [the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act] - subjecting manufacturers to a patchwork of potentially inconsistent state regulations.”

EPCA governs the energy efficiency of appliances as amended by the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act of 1987 and the Energy Policy Act of 1992. NAECA contains efficiency standards, testing procedures and labeling requirements, among other regulations, for certain residential appliances, referred to as “covered products.” These include appliances such as refrigerators, room air conditioners, air conditioners and heat pumps, furnaces, water heaters and fluorescent lamp ballasts. EPACT contains similar regulations for certain types of commercial and industrial equipment, referred to as “covered equipment.” These include storage and instantaneous water heaters, electric motors, packaged terminal air conditioners and heat pumps.

Mattingly said he knows that the state plans to appeal the decision in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.