July 25, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Ceiling Fan Makers Strive to Block Efficiency Rules They Once Sought

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Blackburn offered the policy rider to an appropriations bill saying ceiling fan companies cannot afford burdensome regulations that would drive up the price of products.

The House fanned an old debate this week by adopting a provision that would block the Energy Department from setting energy efficiency standards for ceiling fans.

Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn offered the policy rider to the Energy-Water appropriations bill (HR 2609), saying companies such as Memphis, Tenn.-based Hunter Fans cannot afford burdensome regulations that would drive up the price of products. The amendment, which would block funding for writing the regulations, was adopted by voice vote.

But it was the industry itself that sought a national energy efficiency standard nearly a decade ago. At the time, three states — California, Maryland and New York — had enacted their own standards. Seeking to avoid a hodgepodge of regulations across states, the industry turned to the federal government.

Now, some of those companies are lobbying against an update of that standard.

“It means you have neither state nor federal standards,” said Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. “It breaks the fundamental deal.”

His group worked in a coalition with Home Depot, a fan manufacturer and seller, and other fan companies in 2005 to include a mandate for national standards as part of a comprehensive energy law (PL 109-58).

The coalition agreed to a modest standard that reflected the industry’s status quo on energy efficiency, deLaski said in an interview. His group went along with the agreement because it required the Energy Department to review the standard every six years and update it. Now, deLaski said he is “a little surprised to see them seek an amendment to defund the process.”

The 2005 law — enacted by a Republican Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush — gave the Energy Department authority to regulate the energy efficiency level of ceiling fans. It codified some energy saving features, such as multiple speed settings. As part of the compromise, it also allowed the Energy secretary to exempt highly decorative fans, which the industry argues are purchased more for their appearance than their utility.

The law also requires the agency to review the rules every six years, a process the department initiated earlier this year. The process is in its initial phase, and the agency has not yet laid out how it would update the rules. An updated standard is expected in 2015 with a potential effective date of 2018.

Echoes of Other Debates

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