Late last week my colleagues Lane Burt and Noah Long each blogged here and here, respectively, on DOE/EPA initial response to beef up efforts to defend the integrity of the ENERGY STAR label on the heels of a GAO Report that revealed loopholes (using off-the-wall faux appliances) in the certification processes used to label products.
In taking the first major step oulined in Energy Star's initial response,
(" . . . to improve the program . . . we have started an enhanced testing program and have already taken enforcement actions against companies that have violated the rules.")
Energy Star announced yesterday in this letter (excerpt below) to all stakeholder participants that it will require all product qualification testing documents be submitted to EPA/DOE (confidentially) for the purpose of program quality assurance.
"In light of these findings [from the GAO report], EPA has concluded it is necessary to accelerate program enhancement efforts related to qualification and verification and is taking the following steps, effective immediately:
- Products may no longer be labeled by manufacturers (including product packaging, product literature, Web sites, etc.) until qualifying product information, including a lab report, is submitted to and approved by EPA. This policy, which has been in place for certain product categories, such as residential light fixtures and CFLs, is now extended to all product categories and is applicable to any product model that has not already been approved and posted to the applicable ENERGY STAR qualified products listing.
- EPA’s automated review process using the online product submittal (OPS) system has been suspended and qualified product information sheets are being held. We expect to resume product qualification for affected product categories in two weeks or less. When resumed, manufacturers of applicable product categories (i.e., audio/video, computers, displays, external power supplies, imaging equipment, TVs, and telephony) should continue to take advantage of OPS for purposes of submitting qualifying product information, but must provide a lab report for each model for review and approval.
- New ENERGY STAR partners will no longer be granted access to the ENERGY STAR mark upon joining the program. Going forward, the ENERGY STAR mark will be made available to partners only after a qualifying product is submitted and approved."
Despite the "troubling, yet oddly entertaining" findings that Lane aptly described from the GAO Report, we applaud Energy Star for its nimble and responsive actions taken over the course of less than 2 weeks to begin the process to plug the qualification testing and verification loopholes. Of course this is just the beginning of a series of program changes that will need to take place over the coming weeks and months; and which NRDC is directly engaged in making sure these changes protect the brand integrity that Energy Star represents to accurately differentiate and label superior energy-performing products and services.