We at Earthjustice are dismayed that a champion of energy efficiency, Scott Blake Harris, will be leaving his post at the U.S. Department of Energy. Harris, the department’s General Counsel, made the enforcement of energy efficiency standards for household appliances and commercial equipment a priority at DOE, and essentially built the department’s enforcement program from the ground up.
Harris came to the department in July 2009. Before then, there was zero enforcement of efficiency standards. His loss will be a big one at DOE, and his shoes large to fill.
Under his leadership, the department made significant progress on enforcement. DOE started a program to randomly select and review manufacturers’ compliance with certification requirements to ensure that appliances meet energy and water efficiency standards. In another huge leap toward energy efficiency, the department strengthened its ENERGY STAR labeling program by expanding testing of ENERGY STAR qualified products.
But that’s not all.
Harris’ Office of the General Counsel also opened investigations to initiate enforcement action against two dozen manufacturers and retailers for distributing energy wasting, non-compliant appliances and equipment.
Even so, further improvements to DOE’s enforcement program are needed.
Although the department has established a website for manufacturers to submit compliance data to DOE electronically, the information submitted is not yet publicly available. The department also started a rulemaking process to strengthen regulations around certification and verification testing, but that final rule has not yet been completed.
In an October 2009 DOE press release, Harris said: “For the sake of our environment and our economy, it’s critical that we enforce our energy efficiency regulations. Strong enforcement of the rules will encourage compliance and keep manufacturers who break the law from having a competitive advantage over manufacturers who play by the rules.” We couldn’t agree more.
Thank you, Mr. Harris, for taking DOE a long way toward an effective enforcement program. But because there’s still much work to be done, we call on President Obama to find a replacement who will continue Harris’ focus on enforcement of efficiency standards.