The National Electrical Manufacturers Association and the Department of Energy disagree about what qualifies as a “small electric motor” under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. The disagreement is consequential because the Department promulgated energy conservation rules for electric induction motors with .25 to 3 horsepower, relying on its authority to establish energy conservation rules for “small electric motor[s]” under the Act. The Association petitioned for review of a final rule promulgated by the Department, contending that the statutory definition precluded the Department from regulating all motors over 1 horsepower and certain motors at or less than 1 horsepower.
By a 2-1 vote, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit denied the petition for review in National Electrical Manufacturers Association v. Department of Energy. Judge King wrote the opinion, which was joined by Judge Wynn. Judge Shedd dissented. The panel majority deferred to the Department’s interpretation at the second step of a Chevron analysis, whereas Judge Shedd would have stopped at step one. The opinions discuss what sort of agency interpretations are entitled to deference and the relevance of legislative history. There looks to be much here for administrative law mavens.
Kudos to Professor Caleb Nelson of the University of Virginia School of Law, for the majority’s reliance on his casebook on statutory interpretation in discussing the relevance of legislative history.