April 27, 2007 / 12:35 AM / 11 years ago

California sues DOE on washing-machine rules

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California said on Thursday it has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Energy for failing to uphold the state’s stringent standards for water-efficient washing machines.

A man is shown putting his laundry into a washing machine, part of an art istallation in Berlin's city center, in this September 6, 2000 file photo. California said on Thursday it has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Energy for failing to uphold the state's stringent standards for water-efficient washing machines.

The announcement of the suit, filed last week, comes a day after California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger threatened to sue the federal Environmental Protection Agency if it does not act soon on the state’s request to impose stricter-than-federal automobile emissions standards.

By Thursday, five of the 11 states that also seek stricter auto emission standards — Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland, Oregon and Rhode Island — had sent letters to the EPA in support of California’s threat, said Frank O’Donnell of the group Clean Air Watch.

The EPA had agreed on Tuesday to consider California’s request to limit tailpipe emissions and hold a hearing May 22 in Washington.

The suit already filed regarding washing machine efficiency standards contests the DOE’s 2004 denial of a waiver to federal standards requested by the state energy commission.

“California has had to sue the Department of Energy five times over the last several years to get them on board with energy efficiency. The courts have sided with California five times,” energy commission spokeswoman Claudia Chandler told Reuters.

“So, we’ll see them in court.”

The suit was filed last Friday with the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

The DOE contends that California did not meet requirements for the granting of a waiver, said agency spokeswoman Julie Ruggiero.

A waiver request has to be “economically feasible and technologically justified,” she said.

“We are committed to increasing efficiency on a variety of fronts, but you have to meet the law in order to change the law,” Ruggiero said. “In California, if we were to change the standard that high, that quickly, it could have a negative impact on the producer and the consumer.”

The more water-efficient machines will cost about $130 more, but savings on water and energy will save the average consumer about $242, the energy commission said.

“For a state that faces perpetual water issues, every drop counts,” said Commission Chair Jackalyne Pfannenstiel in a press statement by the energy commission. “Less water use in California clothes washers will eventually save enough to supply a city the size of San Diego every year.”

The state would also save lots of electricity and natural gas, as well as cut climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions, the suit claims.

California in 2002 established standards to require washing machines sold after 2007 to use no more than 8.5 gallons per cubic foot of washing machine capacity. The standard would then become a tougher 6 gallons per cubic foot by 2010.

Efficient washing machines will use an average of 21.1 gallons per wash, or 8,271 gallons a year — compared with conventional machines that use 39.2 gallons per wash or 15,366 gallons a year for a normal household. The water-per-load figures come from three years ago, the energy commission said.

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