DOE Rulemaking 101

The Making of Standards—DOE Style

Ever wonder how a standard is made? If a DOE rulemaking were a recipe, it would look something like this: Put all the ingredients out on the table, mix in a good amount of analysis, add a healthy dose of public comment, warm up a preliminary decision, sprinkle with more comments and analysis, and cook until a final decision is ready. From start to finish, it’s about three years to the fully-cooked decision. DOE has been revising the recipe to shorten the prep and baking time, however, unlike a typical recipe, several steps are required by law. For example, DOE must publish notices in the Federal Register, hold public hearings, and have open comment periods.

What follows is DOE’s recipe for making a standard:

Framework Document: The Framework Document outlines the scope of the rulemaking and explains the relevant analyses that DOE anticipates conducting to determine whether to amend the standards, as well as for the development of any amended standards. The Framework Document essentially casts a broad net over the many issues that the rulemaking might encompass and asks for feedback from stakeholders.

Preliminary Technical Support Document (PTSD): DOE discusses methodologies and results of the preliminary technical analyses and indicates the scope and type of rule it might propose, holds a hearing and requests comments. The preliminary analyses include an analysis of the costs to achieve higher efficiency levels; an analysis of the life-cycle cost savings and payback period of higher efficiency levels from the perspective of an individual consumer or business; and a national impact analysis of the potential national energy savings and net present value (NPV) of higher efficiency levels.

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR): DOE proposes standards levels for the product(s) and publishes the technical support document (TSD). The latter contains the analyses that support the proposed levels. The TSD includes a manufacturer impact analysis, a utility impact analysis, an employment impact analysis, and an environmental assessment, among other detailed analyses. DOE holds a public hearing and requests public comments once the NOPR is published. 

Final Rule: After considering public comments, DOE revises its analysis and publishes the final rule. Usually, manufacturers must comply with the standard three to five years after the new standard is published. 
Additional Notes:

  • When considering a new product, DOE will issue a request for information (RFI) and/or a determination of coverage.
  • The final result of a standards rulemaking may be a DOE decision to leave a standard unchanged if no improvements are warranted at that time.
  • Though DOE usually issues Framework Documents and Preliminary Technical Support Documents, these steps are not legally required and DOE may choose to omit one or both steps if recent technical work provides a firm foundation for an NOPR. 
  • The hearings are held in Washington, DC, at DOE’s offices. Some hearings have webinar access to allow stakeholders to participate remotely.

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