Stakeholders Not Sweating New Freeze on Energy Regulations

A freeze on regulations instituted by White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus puts several energy-efficiency rules on hold, but industry and efficiency advocates aren’t panicking.

The memorandum, which pauses final Department of Energy rules on walk-in coolers and freezers, portable air conditioners, commercial boilers, and uninterruptible power supplies, is “routine” for a new administration, Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, told Morning Consult on Wednesday. 

Priebus’s memorandum freezes the progress of any rule that had not already been published in the Federal Register, as well as any new rules. Such a freeze is usually used as an “error-correction process” before a new administration sends the almost-finished rules to the Federal Register.

But new administration officials could also decide to do away with the rules, Nadel said.

Uncontroversial rules are unlikely to be eliminated. The efficiency rule for walk-in coolers and freezers falls into that category, as both industry and advocates negotiated the details. Nadel and Francis Dietz, vice president of public affairs for the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, both told Morning Consult they expected the rule to have a clear path forward once the Trump administration lifts the freeze.

“We will be in close contact once those guys get in place at DOE, and we will explain, and the advocates will explain, that the rule was negotiated among all the stakeholders,” Dietz said.

But for other unfinished regulations, the path forward may be more complicated.

Dietz said his group was not entirely satisfied with the testing procedures for walk-in coolers and freezers included in DOE’s rule, which would “make it difficult for our members to meet the efficiency standards that we agreed on.” AHRI also did not support the commercial boiler rule, Dietz said. The group plans to share its concerns with the new officials, although it’s not clear whether the rules could be revamped, he said.

But Priebus’s memorandum does not affect U.S. participation in the October 2016 international deal to limit the use of hydrofluorocarbons, a chemical that emits greenhouse gases and is used in refrigerants, Steve Seidel, a senior adviser for the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, said in an email.

The international deal, passed in Kigali, Rwanda, calls for phasing out HFCs in refrigerants in favor of other technologies, while the DOE standards address energy efficiency in general. The rule-making freeze “should not directly impact” U.S. involvement in the Kigali deal, Seidel said.

Morning Consult