|DOE Update from HPBA|
On Monday, March 21, the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) submitted comments to the Department of Energy (DOE) in response to the agency’s Regulatory Reduction Request for Information (76 Fed. Reg. 6123, February 3, 2011). The agency sought comments under the directive of Executive Order 13563 (“Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review”), issued by President Obama on January 18, 2011, to determine whether existing regulations should be modified or repealed to make the agency’s regulatory program more effective and less burdensome in achieving its regulatory goals. The RFI also included a “reply comment” deadline of April 4, 2011, which is why we are reaching out to our industry colleagues. We are seeking assistance from allied industry organizations in the form of “reply comments” submitted in support of our comments.
By way of background, DOE issued a final rule on April 16, 2010 (75 Fed. Reg. 20112) that would virtually eliminate new decorative vented gas fireplaces from the market, effective April 16, 2013. The rule arbitrarily imposed a maximum BTU input rate of 9,000 Btu/hr for these products, a limit that is far too low for any conventional gas fireplace. All other vented gas fireplaces were classified as direct heating equipment (DHE) subject to minimum heating efficiency standards that are neither appropriate nor achievable for decorative vented gas fireplaces. This rule will effectively ban approximately 70% of the vented gas fireplaces being sold today, and will have a devastating impact on the gas fireplace industry.
DOE had no basis to impose this kind of result. Decorative vented gas appliances are not designed or used as utilitarian heating appliances, and the statute addressing DHE – the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act of 1987, which was the product of negotiation between industry and public interest groups – was never intended to cover decorative vented gas fireplaces. Moreover, DOE never even suggested that it was considering a ban on decorative vented gas fireplaces: it simply slipped the ban into its final rule without any notice to industry and the public, or consideration at all of the impact this would have on the industry. A more thorough discussion of the rule’s background and the issues involved is provided in our comments (attached).
Again, we are reaching out to related organizations to solicit comments in support of our position in a matter of critical importance to our industry. If you would be willing to submit comments in support, please let us know. We would appreciate any support, but it would be particularly helpful to have comments indicating that the ban on decorative vented gas fireplaces raises concerns that extend beyond the manufacturers of these products. It would also be helpful to have support with respect to the following points:
Decorative vented gas fireplaces should not have been addressed in DOE’s final rule.
The ban on decorative vented gas fireplaces should be repealed.