APGA filing supports natural gas utilities

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In a show of support for the interests of natural gas customers, natural gas utilities and overall efficiency, the American Public Gas Association (APGA) has filed a motion for vacatur in the case American Public Gas Association v. Department of Energy, D.C. Cir. No 11-1485.  The motion was filed jointly with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and asks the U.S. Court of Appeals to vacate a direct final rule (DFR) concerning furnace efficiency standards issued by DOE and to remand the rule for notice-and-comment rulemaking.   

APGA filed its petition with the court in December 2011 to challenge the direct final rule issued by DOE in June and confirmed in October 2011. The DFR, which raised the annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) for non-weatherized gas furnaces from 80 percent to 90 percent effective in May 2013, would have had the effect of eliminating non-condensing gas furnaces from the northern region of the country and driven consumers to less efficient electric furnaces. 

The furnace rule, in an attempt to increase efficiency, would have inadvertently deterred consumers from purchasing direct use natural gas appliances, which are more efficient than electric appliances, according to APGA. Further, practical issues such as venting requirements would indirectly increase the cost of the more energy efficient natural gas appliance options, consequently giving consumers the incentive to buy cheaper (initially) electric appliances that are ultimately less efficient and more costly in the long run.

DOE and APGA came to a settlement agreement this fall in which DOE agreed to withdraw the DFR and initiate a traditional notice-and-comment rulemaking for new furnace efficiency standards.

"APGA has believed since the outset of this proceeding that setting efficiency standards by direct final rule, versus notice-and-comment rulemaking, was both a violation of the enabling statute and a disservice to the affected consumers," APGA President and CEO, Bert Kalisch, said after filing the motion.

In order for the settlement to be effective, the court must approve the motion for vacatur. 

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