A coalition of 15 U.S. states and the City of New York filed suit yesterday afternoon against the federal Department of Energy (DOE) for violating Congressionally enacted mandates to adopt stronger energy-saving standards for 22 common appliances that use large amounts of electricity, natural gas and oil by specified deadlines.
According to a release from New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer the government’s own numbers indicate the standards would generate substantial consumer savings while reducing air pollution and global warming emissions from power plants.
"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," Spitzer said. "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."
The release from Spitzer's office says Congress directed DOE to strengthen efficiency standards for furnaces, water heaters, clothes washers, dryers, air-conditioners, dishwashers, heat pumps, motors, ranges, ovens, and other household and commercial products. Congress established initial efficiency standards for most of the products and directed DOE to periodically review and strengthen them. The DOE is directed to establish the initial efficiency standards for the remaining products and periodically strengthen them. Spitzer says DOE is 6 to 13 years behind schedule and has not adopted any appliance efficiency standards since January 2001.
Spitzer's office points to DOE estimates that indicate the average annual energy savings would meet the total annual energy needs of 3 million to as many as 12 million American households, depending on how stringent the standards are and how fast they are phased in.
The states wrote to DOE on July 1, 2005, requesting that it comply with the law and commit to a binding schedule for establishing stronger standards, and alerted DOE that without such a schedule they would commence federal litigation. Spitzer says DOE did not respond to the letter.
The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York. It is available on the New York Attorney General’s website at: www.oag.state.ny.us
More Comments From Suing States
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer: "Energy efficient appliances help protect the environment and our pocketbooks," These conservation goals are simply common sense."
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal: "How reprehensible for federal officials to disregard these cost-savings energy standards - at precisely the moment when consumers most need real price relief. Consumers should feel mocked and outraged by this purposeful federal failure when they pay spiraling charges. The federal government’s inaction is inexplicable, inexcusable, and anti-consumer. The cost-saving technology is widely available; failure to use it is folly."
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan: "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."
Maine Attorney General G. Steven Rowe: "Federal law required the Department of Energy to update energy efficiency standards for many kinds of appliances by deadlines that have long since passed. These modern efficiency standards would reduce demand for electricity, decrease our dependence on foreign oil and save consumers money on their utility bills. As energy costs spiral out of control, there is no excuse for the Federal government’s continued foot-dragging and inaction."
Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly: "The need for strong national energy efficiency standards has never been more apparent. It’s time for the Department of Energy to do its job and create standards that will not only benefit our environment but consumers who will spend less to keep their homes running."
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."
New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly A. Ayotte: I am taking this action to protect New Hampshire’s consumers from higher energy bills, increased air and water pollution from power plants and reduced energy security. As natural gas and home heating oil prices hit record highs, the federal government’s failure to meet its obligation to revise energy efficiency standards for common appliances calls out for prompt action. I urge the federal government to respond with a timely schedule for compliance with the law."
New Mexico Attorney General Patricia A. Madrid: "New Mexicans have recently been told that they can expect their heating bills to increase up to 30% this winter due to an increase in natural gas prices. On top of this, consumers are faced with record high costs for oil and gasoline. This is a time when energy savings measures are most needed. This is not the time for the federal government to turn aside cost efficient approaches to saving energy."
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Kathleen A. McGinty: "Some have suggested conservation is cute. They’re wrong – it’s critical. Energy efficiency must be recognized as an important component to America’s energy future. Enhanced standards would mean immediate environmental improvements and additional cost savings for consumers."
Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager: "The Administration’s failure to act on these standards will have a devastating effect on Wisconsin consumers as we head toward winter. With fuel prices rocketing out of control and other energy costs rising, it’s critical we demand enforcement of the energy efficiency standards as soon as possible."
New York City Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo: "This lawsuit is an important energy savings measure for all New York City residents. It will also advance the City’s – as well as overall environmental – interests by increasing efficiency of consumer and commercial appliances. New York City residents and businesses pay some of the highest energy prices in the country. In addition, the City suffers from high levels of ozone and fine particulate matter. Forcing the Department of Energy to revise the efficiency standards for these products, as it is required by law to do, will benefit the City’s residents and businesses in terms of both energy costs and air quality."
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