The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Raviya Ismail, (202) 667-4500, ext. 237

California AG, Environmental Groups in Court Over Weak Energy Efficiency Standards

Stronger standards would save energy, cut global warming pollution by 700 million tons


A panel of federal judges heard arguments today in a lawsuit
against the U.S. Department of Energy to adopt stronger energy
efficiency standards for electricity distribution transformers, the
gray boxes mounted on utility poles all over the country.

Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense
Council (NRDC) filed the lawsuit in December 2007, arguing that the
standards DOE adopted in October 2007 were too weak, in part because
DOE illegally failed to account for the monetary benefits of reducing
carbon dioxide pollution when setting the standards. As a result, these
weak standards will lead to excessive energy consumption and
unnecessary global warming pollution. The California Attorney General's
office filed a similar lawsuit.

President Obama has pledged to prioritize energy efficiency, and
environmental advocates are willing and able to help undo past actions
of the former administration. In a meeting at DOE in early February,
President Obama ordered the department to accelerate the process of
setting energy efficiency standards for common household appliances,
with the goal of reducing household utility bills and fossil fuel

"This case provides a clear example of how crucial it is that our
nation adopt the strongest possible energy efficiency standards," said
Earthjustice attorney Tim Ballo, who argued the case in court today.
"Distribution transformers contribute millions of tons of global
warming pollution. The DOE can make good on their charge while
achieving tremendous energy and cost savings."

Adopting more stringent standards would also avoid the emission of
700 million tons of carbon dioxide -- more than what is emitted
annually by all U.S. passenger cars.

"The Bush administration rejected mandatory limits on global warming
pollution in favor of solving the problem through other means, such as
energy efficiency standards," said David B. Goldstein, co-director of
NRDC's energy program. "And yet DOE's efficiency standards for
distribution transformers are incredibly weak, in part because DOE did
not take into account the benefits of reducing global warming
pollution. DOE is missing a huge opportunity to reduce pollution at a
profit. We can't afford to miss any opportunities to reduce
heat-trapping emissions, much less an opportunity this big."

The nation's 40 million distribution transformers are crucial cogs
in the energy system, reducing electricity voltage to the levels needed
to power homes and businesses. Because of their ubiquity and because
all power travels through one or more transformers, greater efficiency
offers substantial energy savings. According to DOE estimates,
requiring all new transformers to achieve the same efficiency levels as
the best units currently on the market would eliminate the need for
nearly 20 large new power plants by 2038.

Utility companies, the primary purchasers of these transformers,
have also called for more efficient standards, citing the more than $9
billion the industry could save. But, under the previous
administration, DOE disregarded stronger standards supported by both
utility and environmental groups when it adopted its regulations.

Consumers also stand to benefit from efficiency standards, which
reduce costs and improve system reliability. Each year, inefficient,
overheated transformers are responsible for countless power outages
across the country.

Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.