DOE Expands Enforcement And Regulations For Energy Efficiency (How Many Energy Lawyers Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb?)

Author:Mr Stephen Teichler and Jennifer D. Cook
Profession:Duane Morris LLP

On March 2, 2010, U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, introduced bipartisan legislation that would lead to the manufacture and use of more energy efficient everyday appliances. The bill (S. 3059) aims to strengthen a 20-year U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) initiative that establishes, updates and administers energy efficiency standards for more than 33 consumer products. The National Energy Efficiency Enhancement Act of 2010 aims to provide for more energy efficient furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps and street lights. If passed as proposed, the Act would change the criteria that the U.S. Secretary of Energy uses to set efficiency standards to include the impact of the new or updated standards on average energy prices and on the use of new smart-grid technology. This legislative proposal builds on DOE's recent efforts to strengthen energy efficiency standards and enforce compliance.

In October 2009, DOE announced new steps to strengthen its ability to enforce energy efficiency standards, including the formation of an enforcement team within the Office of the General Counsel and a program to conduct random reviews of manufacturers' compliance with DOE certification requirements. DOE stated that the new enforcement team would be initiating a compliance review of certification reports for covered consumer products. In addition, DOE would randomly select previously filed certification reports for review, request certification records as needed and hold manufacturers accountable for failing to certify covered products according to DOE rules. If it finds violations of energy efficiency standards, DOE may prevent distribution of products that do not meet the certification requirements, and may also assess civil penalties.

In what may be viewed as light speed for regulatory processes, less than three months after announcing its renewed focus on energy efficiency standards, DOE adopted new regulations to implement reporting requirements for energy conservation standards and energy use, compliance certification, and enforcement procedures for certain consumer products and commercial and industrial equipment covered under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 or the Energy Policy Acts of 1992 and 2005. For the first time, the preexisting regulations requiring compliance statements and certification reporting for manufacturers and private labelers of scores of appliances now also apply to certain...

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