provided by the American Public Gas Association (APGA)
On October 22, APGA sent a letter to Secretary Moniz expressing strong concerns regarding recent developments related to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) on Energy Conservation Standards for Residential Furnaces. On September 14, DOE released a Notice of Data Availability (NODA) seeking comment on an analysis of the potential economic impacts and energy savings that would be obtained through the creation of a separate product class for small furnaces. This separate product class would be exempt from the 92 percent nationwide standard DOE proposed in a March NOPR.
In its letter, APGA states that “the advocates of the furnace rule, who appear to be the only ones aware that an extension would be granted, held off filing comments; they now have an additional 14 days to review the timely-filed comments of the Associations, as well as to take advantage of the additional data requested by the Associations.” The letter further states that “since DOE neglected to communicate to the Associations its intent regarding the data request and extension request, significant resources were expended by the Associations to complete their technical analysis based on insufficient data and to draft and file timely comments on October 14.” The letter expresses APGA’s very strong objection to these tactics, which appear intended to further tilt the playing field to the advantage of DOE’s allies on the furnace NOPR.
APGA also filed a Freedom of Information Request with DOE for documents and materials that reference or relate to the decision of DOE to reopen the comment period for the public to submit comments on the NODA.
On October 29, APGA filed comments in response to a September 16 petition by Broadnet Teleservices, LLC for a declaratory ruling that governmental entities are exempt from the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). On September 29, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Notice and Request for Comments on the Broadnet petition. The TCPA is the law that regulates and limits calls made by autodialing systems. There is a concern that the TCPA, if applied to public gas and power, could make it difficult for systems to notify customers by automated messages about service outages, service restoration times, the presence of repair crews in their neighborhoods, etc. Broadnet’s petition argues that the Communications Act (into which the TCPA was incorporated), defines "persons" the same way as the Natural Gas Act and Federal Power Act and because, the courts and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) have said that municipal utilities are not persons under either statute, they should not be considered persons subject to the TCPA either.
In its comments, APGA communicates that many public gas systems rely on automated calls to alert the public in a timely fashion on issues such as outages and gas leaks. In addition, many others are considering the use of automated calling to make their systems safer. The comments also state that “since the word ‘person’ as used in the TCPA was not intended to include federal, state, and local governmental entities and their officers acting on official business, calls made by or on behalf of government entities, such as the members of APGA, are not subject to the TCPA and the rules thereunder.”
Also on October 29, Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was elected the 54th Speaker of the House. After weeks of wrangling, Ryan agreed to assume the speakership if certain conditions were met, including:
- The support of the House Freedom Caucus, the Republican Study Committee, and the Tuesday Group;
- Less time fundraising as a typical speaker;
- More flexibility to spend time with his family; and,
- An alteration to House Rules to prevent the Freedom Caucus from threatening to unseat the speaker, which was not met but was ineffectual.
The key question for Ryan is how long the unity showed in his election will actually last. Members of the House Freedom Caucus largely supported him, but once the issue of actual legislation arises, their willingness to follow him may evaporate as it did for Boehner. The House Freedom Caucus supported Speaker Boehner for around one month before turning on him, leading to the internecine warfare that has characterized the House over the last few years. It remains to be seen when or if the House Freedom Caucus will do the same to Ryan.