ENS: Energy Department Sued for Wasting America’s Energy

Environment News Service (ENS)

Energy Department Sued for Wasting America’s EnergyNEW YORK, New York, May 8, 2007 (ENS) – The Natural Resources Defense Council, NRDC, and the state of Massachusetts filed parallel lawsuits Monday against the U.S. Department of Energy, DOE, for failing to strengthen weak and outdated energy efficiency standards for commercial heating and cooling equipment.

Massachusetts filed its case in the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The Natural Resources Defense Council, which is based in New York, filed a parallel challenge in the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

On March 7, the DOE adopted the standards for new air conditioners, heat pumps, and similar products commonly used in offices, schools and other commercial facilities. The standards are far weaker than recommended by experts at the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers, ASHRAE, a professional group recognized by Congress as an authority on energy efficiency.

The suits challenge DOE’s standards that allow these products to continue to waste both energy and money, and generate thousands of needless tons of air pollution, including greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said, “We intend to continue to press the federal government to live up to its statutory responsibilities to address excess emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants. If the federal government focused on problem solving rather than trying to avoid doing its job, we would be much closer to solving many of our environmental problems.”

“Instead of requiring less energy waste as the law requires, the Department of Energy came up with a tortured reading of the law to avoid adopting stronger minimum standards,” said Earthjustice attorney Tim Ballo, who represents the NRDC.

“The energy savings that could be had through better standards for these products are substantial; enough to eliminate the need for several major new power plants, said Ballo. “Stronger standards would curb air pollution and harmful greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. It’s a win-win situation that, unfortunately, DOE has chosen to ignore.”

“Strong efficiency performance standards are the antidote to America’s ailing energy system,” said David Goldstein, air andenergy director for NRDC.

“Energy efficiency – a technology we have available to us right now – will help curb global warming, maximize energy savings, and protect consumers and the environment,” Goldstein said. “Technology, science and the law demand that we act now to move cleaner and greener products into the marketplace. The DOE needs take its blinders off and step out of the way of America’s progress.”

The final March 2007 rules represent an about-face from a 2006 DOE proposal to adopt the substantially stronger ASHRAE standards. The DOE claims the sudden reversal is justified by provisions of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, but Massachusetts, Earthjustice and NRDC say the law was designed to promote more conservation, not less.

There are currently more than 100 coal-fired power plants proposed for construction across the United States. Improvements in energy efficiency can reduce the need for such power plants.

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