The Bush administration finalized today a rule that weakens energy efficiency standards for central air conditioners and heat pumps. Earthjustice's White House Watch program criticized the new rule, which was published in today's Federal Register.
"The Bush administration has been trying to open public lands and coastal areas for drilling in the name of energy independence," said Maria Weidner of Earthjustice. "Today's weakening of energy efficiency standards demonstrates that the Bush administration is more concerned with lining industry's pockets than with conserving our limited resources with common sense initiatives."
The original rule increasing energy efficiency standards for central air conditioners and heat pumps by 30 percent was finalized and published in the Federal Register in January 2001. The rule was delayed under the Bush administration's "Regulatory Review Plan" for 60 days, and the administration announced its intent to weaken the energy efficiency standard by one-third last April.
Coincidentally, the 20 percent standard finalized today by the Bush administration was precisely what industry had asked for. Shortly after filing suit against the rule, the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute, called on the administration to lower the standard by one-third. Just a week later, the Department of Energy issued a press release announcing it would do exactly what the industry requested. ARI issued a release on the same day congratulating DOE on their wise decision.
"We've seen a number of situations where the Bush administration has engaged in one-sided settlement talks with industry," said Weidner. "This is the first time we've seen a settlement negotiated by press release."
Today's action finalizes the weakening of the energy efficiency standards, making this standard the latest in a list of environmental protections that have faced elimination or substantial weakening at the Bush administration chopping block. Others include:
- The phase-out of snowmobile use in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, which has been delayed another year pending the outcome of a supplemental study requested by industry.
- The roadless rule, which would ensure protections for nearly 60 million acres of pristine areas in our national forests. This rule has been challenged in the courts, where the Justice Department has completely failed to defend the case on the merits.
- Though a recent court case upheld portions of the diesel rule that were the subject of litigation, key portions of the rule that were severed from the case are still the subject of one-sided settlement talks between government and industry.
- The Bush administration's bid to weaken tougher standards for arsenic in drinking water came to a halt when the National Academy of Sciences concluded that the levels set by the original rule might not be strong enough.
"This is just the latest example of an administration that puts the needs of corporate special interests before the consumer," said Weidner. "Energy efficient appliances, already widely available in Europe, should be required in the USA to help solve our 'energy crisis.' Increased energy efficiency would help protect our natural resources and protect the pocketbook of every American consumer who pays a utility bill."
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