Ratepayer, Housing Groups Join Conservation Advocates in Court Challenge

NEW YORK (September 7, 2005) -- Despite record energy prices and the continued threat of supply disruptions, federal government officials have repeatedly ignored legal deadlines requiring them to set new efficiency performance standards for air conditioners, furnaces and 20 other kinds of power-thirsty equipment on which business and consumers depend, according to a lawsuit filed today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and two consumer organizations.

The suit charges that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is at least six years, and in some cases 13 years late in setting performance criteria ordered by Congress -- a delay that is wasting billions of cubic feet of costly natural gas. All in all, according to NRDC, new standards could save enough energy each year to meet the needs of up to 12 million American households, and avoid the need for dozens of new electric power plants.

"This is a critical government program that is in complete shambles. We are talking about simple, common- sense responsibility to shield American consumers from rising energy prices," said NRDC attorney Katherine Kennedy. "Performance standards are the most successful tool we have to ease the burden on consumers and protect our increasingly fragile energy supply system, but the feds are asleep at the switch."

The suit parallels a similar case brought today by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, along with 14 other attorneys general and the City of New York. Both actions ask the court to step in to create a strict schedule for DOE to deliver the overdue energy savings measures.

Congress first ordered the agency to prepare the equipment standards during the energy crisis of 1975, and has updated the policy several times since. Today the rules cover 22 major types of commercial and residential equipment, including both residential and commercial heating and air conditioning systems; water heaters; industrial boilers and motors; dishwashers; clothes dryers and certain kinds of lighting.

NRDC filed the complaint in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, in partnership with the Massachusetts Union of Public Housing Tenants, and the Texas Ratepayers' Organization to Save Energy, both of which are represented in the suit by the National Consumer Law Center in Boston.

Based on DOE figures, experts from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy calculate the value to U.S. consumers of existing federal appliance standards is nearly $200 billion -- about $2,000 per household. These savings are projected to triple by 2020 as inefficient appliances are replaced by newer ones subject to standards already in effect.