Federal Government To Establish Energy Efficiency Standards For Several Types Of Appliances

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reached an agreement under which it will set new standards to increase the energy efficiency of many types of domestic appliances, such as home ranges and ovens, air conditioners and dishwashers. This action settles a federal lawsuit against DOE brought by New York and a coalition of 14 other states, New York City and three public interest groups, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer announced on Nov. 13.

"These common sense standards will save consumers money, lower our dependence on foreign oil, and improve public health and our environment," Spitzer said. "I applaud the (DOE) for settling this matter and moving forward with these new standards."

According to DOE's own estimates, the standards covered by this agreement may reduce energy use by as much as 35 quadrillion British thermal units (BTUs) over an approximately 30-year period. By comparison, all U.S. households combined consumed 21 quadrillion BTUs of energy in 2004. The standards also have the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gases, and annual carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced by as much as 103 million metric tons a year. This is the equivalent of eliminating emissions from more than 18 million cars and light trucks from America's roads.

In the 1980s, Congress directed the DOE to periodically update existing efficiency standards for a wide range of consumer products under specific deadlines. DOE has consistently failed in this regard and is as much as 14 years late in developing standards for some products, according to Spitzer's office. In September 2005, after attempting to resolve the delays, New York state led a coalition of states in suing in an effort to compel DOE to catch up on the lapsed deadlines. The lawsuit sought a binding schedule for the overdue standards, which is what the settlement agreement announced today provides.

The agreement was signed by U.S. District Court Judge John E. Sprizzo of the Southern District of New York. The consent decree can be accessed in PDF format at http://www.oag.state.ny.us/press/2006/nov/Consent%20Decree.pdf.

This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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