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A coalition of 15 states and the city of New York has sued the federal Department of Energy (DOE) for failing to adequately raise the energy-saving standards for nearly two dozen household appliances that use large amounts of electricity, gas and oil.
The lawsuit, filed here earlier this month in Manhattan Federal Court, charges the DOE with violating congressionally enacted mandates to adopt stronger energy-saving standards by clearly specified deadlines stated in the law.
According to the federal government's own numbers, the standards sought by the lawsuit would generate substantial savings for consumers and reduce air pollution and global warming emissions from power plants, the states contend.
New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who led the action, said, “As oil and gas prices hit record levels and the impacts of global warming become more apparent, it is profoundly disappointing that the federal government has failed to adopt these crucial energy saving standards. The law requires it, and common sense dictates it. These standards will save energy and money for consumers and help protect our health and environment.”
Congress established initial efficiency standards 18 years ago for a wide range of household and commercial products, including clothes washers, dryers, room air conditioners, dishwashers, ranges and ovens, and directed the DOE to periodically review and strengthen them. The suit charges that the DOE is six to 13 years behind schedule and has not adopted any appliance efficiency standards since January 2001.
Based on the DOE's own estimates, the average annual energy savings could meet the total annual energy needs of between 3 million to 12 million American households, depending on how fast the new standards are phased in and what the new standards are, the states said. Annual electricity savings alone could be approximately equal to the output of 13 to 42 large power plants, the DOE said.
Energy efficiency experts estimate that existing federal appliance efficiency standards are expected to lower electricity costs by over $20 billion per year by 2010. But the new and strengthened standards that Congress required, and that the states are suing to implement, would further increase those savings, the suit charges.
The states wrote to the DOE on July 1, requesting that it commit to a binding schedule for the establishment of stronger efficiency standards, and warned that without such a schedule they would seek an injunction compelling the agency to do so. The states filed suit 60 days later after the DOE failed to respond to their letter.
Other states joining the action include California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan noted: “Efficient appliances benefit everyone. They save money for consumers, conserve scarce resources and reduce damage to the environment. Particularly in these times of shortage and spiraling energy prices, there is no excuse for delaying efficiency standards.”
Added New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey: “We need stronger efficiency standards for appliances that will reduce electricity demand, reduce the drain on our energy resources and reduce pollution. By ignoring a congressional mandate to adopt such standards, the Department of Energy has left us more vulnerable in the current energy crunch. We are taking legal action to ensure that there is no more foot-dragging on this issue.”