In this most recent debate on Capitol Hill, congressional leaders were able to achieve bipartisan agreement on most major issues, which helped smooth final passage in the Senate by a vote of 74-26 and in the House by a 275-156 margin. Support for the package was guaranteed when Republican and Democratic leaders agreed to keep out controversial provisions like allowing drilling in Alaska and giving lawsuit protection to makers of the fuel additive MTBE.
Provisions to allow drilling in Alaska's Artic National Wildlife Refuge may nonetheless move forward separately in the fall on a must-pass budget measure. Still another issue that was kept out of the bill-and one that most U.S.-based manufacturers support-would reopen oil and gas exploration in the resource-rich U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). There is some effort afoot already to reintroduce an OCS provision separately in the fall.
Taken together, these issues will affect plumbing product manufacturers, establishing energy efficiency standards for over a dozen different categories of products and equipment, including commercial pre-rinse spray valves, commercial refrigerators, freezers, battery chargers, commercial clothes washers and others. The new federal standard for pre-rinse spray valves requires that all commercial pre-rinse spray valves manufactured on or after Jan. 1, 2006, must have a flow rate of not more than 1.6 gallons per minute when measured with ASTM test method F2324 (the test method specifies a test pressure of 60 psi). This does not include the clean-ability portion of ASTM F2324, which the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute (PMI) has opposed and worked to improve on the basis of repeatability concerns.
For more information on the energy bill and specific sections, visit www.energy.senate.gov.