WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a senior Democratic Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, today reacted to the release by the Department of Energy (DOE) of a report on the Department’s appliance standards program, which was mandated by his amendment to the Energy Policy Act of 2005.  The DOE Report reveals that the Department currently has 25 appliance standards rulemakings that are behind schedule, covering 18 different appliances.  These rulemakings set minimum energy efficiency standards for appliances such as residential furnaces and boilers, dishwashers, ranges, ovens, and microwave ovens, fluorescent and incandescent lamps, water heaters, clothes dryers, room air conditioners, electric motors, and other commonly used household and commercial appliances. 

These numbers may actually understate the full scope of the problem, as a preliminary analysis by the General Accounting Office (GAO) suggests that even more appliance standards may be overdue.  The Department of Energy Report cited a number of factors that it felt had contributed to the backlog, including DOE’s own Process Rule, which made rulemaking analyses more voluminous, complex and time-consuming, as well as deficiencies in the DOE review and concurrence process.

“The report issued in response to my amendment reveals a program in disarray and plagued by mismanagement,” said Rep. Markey, who previously authored many of the appliance efficiency standards that the Department is responsible for administering. 

Rep. Markey explained, “What comes through very clearly in this report are two fundamental problems.  First, it is clear that the Department’s Process Rule has created a ‘paralysis by analysis’ that has so slowed down the rulemaking process as to render the program ineffective.

“In addition to this problem, however, there is a more fundamental problem with mis-management of DOE’s appliance standard-setting program, including submission of poor quality work, ineffective management, and a poorly-coordinated internal review and clearance process within the Department.

Over the course of the last year, Representative Markey has led Congressional efforts to force the Department of Energy to reform its appliance standards program.  He attached an amendment to the House version of the Energy bill which would have suspended the pre-emption of state efficiency standards mandated under current law for any appliance standard which was more than 5 years overdue.  While this proposal was deleted in the final conference report, Rep. Markey was successful in getting the conferees to agree to establish a reporting requirement mandating that the Department submit a report to the Congress on any overdue appliance standards, and thereafter to report on actions underway to eliminate the backlog.  In addition, Rep. Markey, along with Representatives John Dingell (D-MI) and Rick Boucher (D-VA) have asked GAO to conduct a full investigation into the program.  The GAO report is due later this year.

In the DOE report, entitled Energy Conservation Standards Activities, was released by the Department on January 31, 2006.  Copies of the report can be obtained at http://www.eere.energy.gov/buildings/appliance_standards/2006_schedule_setting.html  In this report, DOE provided an analysis of how the backlog in setting new appliance standards had occurred and set forth a schedule for eliminating the backlog of appliance standards.  That schedule would not have DOE issuing any final new or revised appliance standards in 2006.  4 appliance standards would be issued in 2007, 1 would be issued in 2008, 5 would be issued in 2009, 3 would be issued in 2010, and 6 would be issued in 2011.  Under this schedule, some of the backlogged standards would not actually go into effect until 2016.

The DOE Report also reveals that some appliance manufacturers may be evading the requirements of the law, noting that:

“DOE has recently become concerned about manufacturers misapplying a test procedure or violating the spirit of a test procedure, if not a literal reading of a test procedure.  If the spirit of a test procedure is violated on a wide scale, the benefits of an energy conservation standard could be significantly reduced.  This raises the issue of anti-circumvention of DOE test procedures and standards.  The Department plans to schedule time and resources to work on an anti-circumvention rulemaking.”

Rep. Markey noted that, “If manufacturers are engaging in the type of activities described in the DOE report that is a very serious matter.  I intend to ask the GAO to expand its ongoing inquiry to include an assessment of this issue.”

Rep. Markey concluded, “I am not convinced that the Department is doing enough to get this program back on track.  The Department needs to rethink its schedule for issuing these important energy saving rules, cut the amount of time it takes to issue these rules in half, and give this program the money and resources it needs to carry out the mission.  The failure to do so robs us of enormous energy savings – savings that can help avoid the need to build expensive new power plants and avoid emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases into the environment.

For more information on Rep. Markey’s work on energy policy check out http://markey.house.gov/

February 2, 2006


CONTACT: Tara McGuiness
Jeff Duncan