September 7, 2005
States sue US over energy efficiency of appliances
By Joseph A. Giannone
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fifteen states led by New York
Attorney General Eliot Spitzer sued the U.S. Energy Department
on Wednesday for failing to set efficiency standards for
household appliances that would save enormous amounts of
Congressional mandates to adopt stronger energy-saving
standards within deadlines stated by law for 22 appliances.
The suit was filed in Manhattan Federal Court after the DOE
declined to respond to a July 1 notice letter asking it to take
action, Spitzer said at a press conference.
"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.
DOE spokeswoman Christina Kielich declined immediate
Spitzer and Peter Lehner, head of the attorney general's
environmental bureau, said that updating efficiency standards
for appliances such as refrigerators, air conditioners and
ovens could reduce U.S. electricity use by the equivalent of 3
percent to 12 percent over 25 years, based on 2002 usage, and
the equivalent of the power generated by 13 to 42 power plants.
California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine,
Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North
Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin and
the City of New York joined the suit.
STATES STEP IN
Eighteen years ago, Congress passed laws requiring higher
efficiency for household appliances and charged the DOE with
setting standards and, over time, raising them.
By filing suit, 15 states representing 118 million people
contest that the DOE has not complied with that mandate and is
from six to 13 years behind schedule, depending upon the type
In July, the states coalition told U.S. Energy Secretary
Samuel Bodman in a letter that DOE must agree to meet a
timetable for setting efficiency standards, and warned that it
would sue the agency if it refused to make such a commitment.
Spitzer said the suit was filed on Wednesday after giving
DOE 60 days to respond. The suit seeks an injunction that would
force the agency to enact these standards, he said.
The lawsuit came as energy prices soared in the wake of
Hurricane Katrina, which damaged oil rigs, refineries and
pipelines along the U.S. Gulf Coast. It marks the latest effort
by states to pursue business and environmental reforms
generally pursued by the federal government.
Spitzer and other attorneys general bypassed the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency by suing power companies over
pollution from power plants in Ohio and other states that
affected the Northeast. Spitzer said the EPA had not done
enough to curb emissions.
Other Spitzer campaigns have led to reforms in analyst
research, mutual fund practices and the insurance business. In
each case, he has bumped into federal agencies, like the
Securities and Exchange Commission.
Spitzer said New York and other states have had to pursue
some lawsuits, if only to push federal agencies into action.
"It's fascinating to me: when it comes to innovation in
policy, it all comes from the states," Spitzer said at the
press conference. "It reflects an abject failure of policy (at
the national level) in terms of dealing with energy, the
environment or the securities industry. And into that void, the
states have stepped."