Green groups request hearing over energy efficiency testing rule

Green groups request hearing over energy efficiency testing rule
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A coalition of green groups, a utility, and consumer advocates are pushing the Department of Energy to hold a hearing on a proposal that would give manufacturers more power to determine the efficiency level of their appliances.

The Energy Department currently sets forth how companies must test their products to determine whether they meet energy efficiency standards, but under a new proposal, companies would be able to develop their own testing procedures.

The rule would apply to everything from refrigerator motors to air conditioners to lightbulbs.

The groups argue the change would essentially let manufacturers write their own rules for testing their products — something that could make certain items seem more energy efficient than they really are and give them a boost over the competition.

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“DOE appears to have recognized the importance of this rule since it underwent review by the Office of Management and Budget. If a rule merits OMB review, it likely merits a public meeting,” the groups said in a letter to the Energy Department obtained by The Hill and signed by organizations including the Natural Resources Defense Council, energy efficiency groups and the California Energy Commission.

“It’s an opportunity to better explain their proposal, and for everyone to understand it,” said Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project which spearheaded the request. “Right now I think it’s fairly unclear why they’re proposing it or what the effect would be.”

The Energy Department currently must give companies the go-ahead before they use alternative testing procedures — a process that can take months, deLaski said. Under the proposal, companies could design their own testing if they didn’t hear back from the agency in 30 days.

“I’d really be kind of shocked if the department didn’t grant a public meeting on this,” he said. “I don’t think this is a big ask honestly.”

The Energy Department did not respond to a request for comment.

The department has been criticized recently for other measures that would limit energy efficiency, including a proposal that would roll back standards for lightbulbs.