Attorney General Lockyer Sues Bush Administration For Delay on Energy Efficiency Rules for Common Appliances

Modern Technology Could Result in Significant Energy Savings, Reduce Dependency on Foreign Oil

Wednesday, September 7, 2005
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

Attorney General Bill Lockyer today filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for stalling energy-saving standards for appliances that use large amounts of electricity, natural gas and oil.

“Energy efficient appliances help protect the environment and our pocketbooks,” said Lockyer. “These conservation goals are simply common sense and should be a top priority, yet the Bush Administration continues to drag its feet. With oil and gas prices skyrocketing, there simply is no excuse for delaying energy-efficient technologies that can help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

Lockyer was joined in the suit by a coalition of 15 states and the City of New York. The standards sought by the lawsuit, according to the federal government’s own numbers, would generate substantial savings for consumers, and reduce air pollution and global warming emissions by reducing the demand on power plants. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The complaint is available at www.ag.ca.gov.

The federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act directs the DOE to periodically review and strengthen efficiency standards for a wide range of household and commercial products, including furnaces, water heaters, clothes washers, dryers, air conditioners, dishwashers, heat pumps, motors, ranges, ovens, motors and lamps.

The DOE is six to 13 years behind schedule and has not adopted any appliance efficiency standards since January 2001.

Appliance efficiency standards capitalize on improved technology and require that the covered appliances use less electricity, gas or oil while providing the same or improved levels of service and reliability. In the past, both the federal government and industry have agreed that national efficiency standards are among the fairest and most cost-effective way to reduce energy consumption.

Based on the DOE’s estimates, the average annual energy savings would meet the total annual energy needs of three million to 12 million American households, depending on how strict the standards are and how quickly they are implemented. Annual electricity savings alone would be approximately equal to the output of 13 to 42 large power plants.

Energy efficiency experts estimate that by 2010 existing federal appliance efficiency standards are expected to lower electricity costs by over $20 billion per year. The new and strengthened standards that Congress required and that the states are suing to implement would increase those savings.

The states wrote to the DOE on July 1, 2005, requesting that it comply with the law and commit to a binding schedule for the establishment of stronger efficiency standards. The states notified the DOE that without such a schedule, the states would commence federal litigation. To date, the DOE has not responded to the letter.

In a previous suit filed in 2001, California, together with other states and nonprofit organizations, alleged DOE had violated the "anti-backsliding" provision of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act by withdrawing a final, Clinton-era rule establishing higher efficiency standards for air conditioners and central heat pumps. The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, ruling that DOE's treatment of the air conditioning standard was contrary to the Department’s own interpretation of the law.

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