September 7, 2005

States Sue Over Energy Efficiency of Appliances

NEW YORK -- A coalition of 15 states led by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer sued the U.S. Energy Department on Wednesday, accusing the agency of failing to set efficiency standards for household appliances that would save enormous amounts of energy.

The states and the city of New York said the DOE violated 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 comment.

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.

Eighteen years ago, Congress passed laws requiring higher efficiency for household appliances and charged the DOE with setting standards and, over time, raising them.

The states argued that the DOE has not complied with that mandate and is from six to 13 years behind schedule, depending upon the type of appliance.

In July, the 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.

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.