Environmentalists Denounce Bush Administration Proposal to Roll Back Energy-Saving Standard for Air Conditioners

NRDC and Other Groups Will Challenge Rollback in Court

WASHINGTON (April 13, 2001) - President Bush's decision today to roll back a cost-effective energy efficiency standard for central air conditioners will worsen the nation's energy and environmental problems, says a coalition of state governments, utilities, and low-income, consumer and environmental groups. The final standard, developed over six years and published in January, would have made new air conditioners 30 percent more efficient by 2006. If successful, the president's attempt to weaken the standard would increase electric bills for tens of millions of Americans, cause additional deaths from air pollution-related disease, and increase the likelihood of summertime power outages.

The administration's action violates the appliance standards law signed by President Reagan in 1987 that prohibits rollbacks, and the Administrative Procedures Act, which defines the process for establishing new rules.

"If this illegal rollback succeeds, when the power goes out in California and other parts of the country, President Bush will be to blame," said David Nemtzow, president of the Alliance to Save Energy. "Rolling back energy efficiency in the face of our energy problems defies common sense."

Last summer, power outages in California occurred when supplies fell just a few hundred megawatts short of demand. Similar shortfalls are expected this summer in California and New York. Weakening the standard would increase electric demand by at least 14,000 megawatts nationally, increasing strain on the nation's power system. Fourteen thousand megawatts is equal to the output of more than 50 medium-sized power plants.

"The administration is trying to block one of the fastest, cheapest and cleanest sources of relief for the West's badly overstressed power grid," said Ralph Cavanagh, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Energy Program. "We'll fight this act of vandalism every inch of the way." NRDC and other groups will challenge the proposed rollback in court.

Air conditioner manufacturers Carrier, Trane, and Lennox lobbied hard for the rollback.

"President Bush's action today shows he cares more about the profits of a few companies than about the skyrocketing monthly utility bills faced by American consumers," said Andrew deLaski, director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, a coalition of consumer and environmental groups, utilities and states based in Boston. "Consumers' power bills will go up by a total of nearly $1 billion per year if this rollback succeeds."

According to Phil Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, "The rollback would increase power plant carbon emissions by 30 million metric tons per year, equivalent to the annual carbon pollution of 21 million cars. And it would also increase power plant pollution that contributes to smog, acid rain and soot pollution."

"With more air pollution, more people develop lung disease," deLaski added. "This rollback would increase the number of deaths associated with air pollution."