The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has vacated U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) efficiency rules applicable to decorative fireplaces. Hearth, Patio, & Barbecue Ass’n v. DOE, No. 10-1113 (D.C. Cir. 2/8/13). The rules had been enacted in 2011 under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, which calls for DOE to issue efficiency requirements for a list of different kinds of consumer heating equipment. According to the court, at issue was whether a decorative fireplace—one designed to minimize heat generation—constituted “direct heating equipment,” a category covered under the Act.

The court held that decorative fireplaces are not intended to provide heat for residential spaces, “never mind heat them efficiently,” and that Congress could not have intended to reach them under the direct heating equipment category. It struck DOE’s definition of “vented hearth products” that included decorative fireplaces and remanded the rule to the agency. The court expressly found that if DOE wanted to regulate decorative fireplace efficiency, it would have to justify such regulation under a multiple-factor “catch all” provision.