The Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), has decided not to pursue a challenge of a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) regulation affecting central air conditioners and heat pumps that has been pending in federal court since 2001. “Due to the likelihood of a long and uncertain legal process, ARI will no longer pursue litigation in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, VA, so that manufacturers can prepare for a new, 13 SEER national minimum efficiency standard for residential central air conditioners and heat pumps that will go into effect on Jan. 23, 2006,” said ARI President William G. Sutton. On March 11, Carrier Corporation, one of several manufacturers that had joined ARI in challenging the 13 SEER standard, withdrew its support to the legal challenge. Carrier President Geraud Darnis noted the Fourth Circuit Court challenge could serve to revert the standard back to 10 SEER, which has been in effect since 1992. “Given the choice between 10 SEER or 13 SEER, we think the industry should support higher efficiency.” Darnis stated. In March 2001, ARI had requested judicial review of the DOE’s Jan. 22, 2001 final rule requiring a 30% increase in the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) for residential air conditioners and heat pumps. ARI supported raising the current standard by 20%, to 12 SEER, as economically justified for consumers and the best way to save energy. On May 23, 2002 following a long review process, DOE withdrew the 13 SEER rule and issued a new regulation stipulating a 12 SEER standard. Proponents the 13 SEER standard challenged DOE’s 12 SEER rule in a New York court on procedural grounds. On Jan. 13, 2004, the U.S. Appeals Court for the Second Circuit in New York ruled that DOE, in enacting the 12 SEER standard, “failed to effect a valid amendment of the original standard’s (13 SEER) effective date, and as a consequence was thereafter prohibited from amending those standards downward.” According to Sutton, manufacturers face significant challenges in meeting the deadline for the 13 SEER standard, which is less than two years away. “The industry needs to know with certainty what the standard will be in order to meet the needs of the marketplace. Because of the approaching effective date and the uncertainty of the court action, ARI has withdrawn its request for review of the 13 SEER rule by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, VA,” Sutton said The current 10 SEER standard, which went into effect in 1992, will continue to be the national minimum efficiency standard for central air conditioners and heat pumps until Jan. 23, 2006. Equipment manufactured after than date must meet the 13 SEER standard. DOE excluded “space constrained products” no greater than 30,000 Btuh from the 13 SEER requirement, stating that these products, which include through-the-wall packaged and split, ductless split and single package and non-weatherized equipment, would be covered by a subsequent rulemaking.