NEW YORK, NY — New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, as well as the Natural Resources Defense Council and other national environmental and consumer groups, have filed lawsuits against the Bush administration over its decision to reduce the Clinton administration’s proposed 13-SEER air conditioner standard back to 12-SEER.

A 13-SEER standard would have made central air conditioning units 30% more efficient, while a 12-SEER standard provides a 20% efficiency increase.

“This is a time when the federal government should be doing everything possible to encourage the efficient use of energy,” Spitzer said. “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.”

The Department of Energy postponed the effective date of the 13-SEER standard and on April 13 announced it would propose a 12-SEER standard. However, the state attorneys general said that federal law establishing the process for the standard prohibits the federal government from rolling it back.

California Attorney General Lockyer said: “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. By ignoring and trying to eliminate the toughened efficiency standard for air conditioners, the Bush administration is unnecessarily making it harder for California.”

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said: “This rule reversal is really role reversal and betrayal. The energy department is abandoning energy efficiency and consumer interests in favor of special interests in the air conditioning and energy industries. Every summer day of rising temperatures shows that energy waste must be stopped. This lawsuit puts heat on the administration to obey the law.”

The group stated that, while the cost of equipment under the higher efficiency standard could increase up to $340, that higher cost would be offset during the first five to seven years of operation of systems designed to last up to 20 years. Also, making air conditioners more efficient reduces the need to build additional power plants.

The states’ lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court in Manhattan. The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Consumer Federation of America, the Association for Energy Affordability, and the Public Utility Law Project have filed a similar lawsuit.

Publication date: 06/18/2001