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U.S. Government Sued Over Ruling on Air Conditioners

A legal challenge has been filed against the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy over DOE’s attempts to block an energy efficiency rule for air conditioners.

NEW YORK, New York, US, 2001-06-20 [SolarAccess.com] A legal challenge has been filed against the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy over DOE’s attempts to block an energy efficiency rule for air conditioners. The state attorneys general of New York, Connecticut and California have joined the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Consumer Federation of America and the Public Utility Law Project in filing suit against Spencer Abraham for his department’s delays and its attempt to weaken a rule made during the final days of the former Clinton administration. “This is a time when the federal government should be doing everything possible to encourage the efficient use of energy,” says New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. “Instead, the Bush administration has dramatically weakened one of the most effective ways to conserve energy. With this lawsuit, we are seeking to compel the administration to adopt a more forward-looking course that will help lower energy bills and reduce air pollution.” “California is among the leading states when it comes to energy conservation and Californians are working even harder to reach new conservation goals in the midst of the power crisis,” adds California Attorney General Bill Lockyer. “By ignoring and trying to eliminate the toughened efficiency standards for air conditioners, the Bush administration is unnecessarily making it harder for Californians.” In separate lawsuits, the plaintiffs charge that DOE has illegally attempted to delay and weaken a final rule that set the federally allowed minimum energy efficiency standard for residential air conditioners and heat pumps at a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio of 13. That SEER represents an efficiency increase of 30 percent from the previous federal standard of 10. The suits were filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan. The plaintiffs ask the court to invalidate DOE’s attempts to delay the final rule and to prevent DOE from attempting to weaken it. “The Bush Administration’s attempt to roll back the SEER 13 air conditioner standard will hurt air quality, public health and consumers’ pocketbooks,” explains Ashok Gupta of NRDC. “Bush’s proposal to weaken these important standards would increase peak electric demand on hot summer days when electricity is scarcest and air pollution the worst. It makes no sense.” The Bush administration wants to weaken the air conditioner standard from 13 to 12 SEER. NRDC calculates that the roll back would increase peak electric demand in the U.S. by 18,000 MW by 2030, forcing the construction of 60 power plants of 300 MW capacity. Total annual electricity consumption by U.S. households would increase by 11 billion kWh by 2020 and, cumulatively over the period from 2006 to 2030, U.S. consumers would pay a total of $18.4 billion more to run air conditioners. The emission of carbon would also increase 45 megatonnes. “Secretary Abraham’s plan to weaken the air conditioner efficiency standard is in blatant violation of federal law,” says NRDC attorney Katherine Kennedy. “Under federal energy law, DOE can’t change an energy efficiency standard to make it weaker, so DOE is trying to act as if the Clinton Administration’s final rule was just a proposal and make it go away.” The day after Bush was inaugurated as president, his chief of staff issued a memorandum to all federal agencies, ordering them to postpone the date of regulations that had been published in the Federal Register but not yet taken effect.