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States Sue U.S. DOE Over Energy Saving Standards

A coalition of 15 states and the city of New York sued the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for what it said were violations of Congressionally enacted mandates to adopt stronger energy saving standards for 22 common appliances that use large amounts of electricity, natural gas and oil.

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 and New York City assert.

Congress directed the DOE to strengthen efficiency standards for a wide range of household and commercial products, including furnaces, water heaters, clothes washers, dryers, air conditioners, dishwashers, heat pumps, motors, ranges, ovens, motors and lamps.

Also, Congress established initial efficiency standards for most of the products and directed the DOE periodically to review and strengthen them. For the remaining products the DOE is to establish the initial efficiency standards and also periodically strengthen them.

But the DOE is six to 13 years behind schedule and has not adopted any appliance efficiency standards since January 2001, the states and New York City said.

Appliance efficiency standards capitalize on improved technology and require the covered appliances use less electricity, gas or oil while providing the same or improved levels of service and reliability. In the past, both the federal government and industry have agreed that national efficiency standards are among the fairest and most cost-effective way to reduce the use of energy.

Citing DOE estimates, the states and New York City said the average annual energy savings would meet the total annual energy needs of between three million to 12 million American households, depending on how fast the new standards are phased in and what the new standards are. Annual electricity savings alone would approximately equal the output of 13-42 large power plants, they noted.

Energy efficiency experts estimate existing federal appliance efficiency standards are expected by 2010 to lower electricity costs by over $20 billion per year. "The new and strengthened standards that Congress required and that the states are suing to implement would increase those savings," the states and New York City said.

The states wrote to the DOE on July 1, 2005, requesting it comply with the law and commit to a binding schedule for the establishment of stronger efficiency standards. They alerted the agency that without such a schedule, the states would commence federal litigation. To date, the DOE has not responded to the letter.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York. It is available on the New York attorney general's website at:

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