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For immediate release - Wednesday, September 7, 2005.
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Miller: States Sue U.S. Dept. of Energy for Failing Consumers on Energy Standards

DES MOINES. Attorney General Tom Miller said today that a coalition of 15 states and the City of New York sued the federal Department of Energy today, alleging that DOE has failed to adopt required, stronger energy saving standards for 22 common appliances from furnaces to dishwashers. [PDF copy of the lawsuit.]

"The DOE was required by Congress to adopt such standards, but it has failed to do so," Miller said. "Such standards have been one of the nation's most successful policies for saving energy, so this is a very serious failure." Miller said the Department of Energy is six to thirteen years behind schedule and has not adopted any appliance efficiency standards since January 2001.

"Appliance efficiency standards are enormously important," Miller said. "They lower energy bills for consumers and businesses. They save energy and reduce pollution. They improve the reliability of the electric system. They are fair. And they help reduce overall energy prices by making a better balance between energy supply and demand," he said.

"It's high-time for the DOE to get moving on efficiency standards for so many appliances that use large amounts of electricity, natural gas and oil," Miller said.

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

Congress itself established initial efficiency standards for most of the products in the 1990s, and directed the Department of Energy periodically to review and strengthen the standards. For the remaining products the DOE is to establish the initial efficiency standards and also periodically strengthen them.

The standards sought by the lawsuit, according to the federal government's own numbers, would generate substantial savings for consumers and reduce air pollution and global warming emissions from power plants.

Miller said the states wrote to the Department of Energy on July 1, 2005, requesting that 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. The DOE has not responded to the letter, Miller said. [States’ letter to DOE – including a chart of DOE appliance standard violations.]

Appliance efficiency standards capitalize on improved technology and require that the covered appliances use less electricity, gas or oil while providing the same or improved levels of service and reliability.

Congress required the DOE to select efficiency standards that are "designed to achieve the maximum improvement in energy efficiency. . . which the Secretary determines [are] technologically feasible and economically justified." [42 U.S.C. sec.6295(o)(2)(A).]

Energy efficiency experts estimate that 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.

"Both the federal government and industry have agreed that national efficiency standards are among the fairest and most cost-effective ways to reduce the use of energy," Miller said.

Based on the Department of Energy's estimates, the average annual energy savings would meet the total annual energy needs of between 3 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 to the output of 13 to 42 large power plants.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York.

Fifteen states and the City of New York filed the lawsuit today. The states are NY, CA, CT, IL, IA, ME, MA, NH, NJ, NM, NC, PA, RI, VT, and WI.

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