Lawmakers Say EPA’s ‘Energy Star’ Program Lacks Transparency

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 21: Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) listens as members speak during a markup meeting of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee March 21, 2013 in Washington, DC. The committee met to vote on the nomination of Sarah Jewell for the position of Secretary of the Interior.
National Journal
Clare Foran
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Clare Foran
Dec. 3, 2013, 4:51 p.m.

A bi­par­tis­an group of law­makers is rais­ing con­cerns that the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency has not been trans­par­ent in draft­ing en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency stand­ards un­der the En­ergy Star pro­gram.

In a let­ter sent to EPA Ad­min­is­trat­or Gina Mc­Carthy on Tues­day af­ter­noon, a group of eight sen­at­ors, in­clud­ing Sen­ate En­ergy and Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee Chair­man Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and rank­ing mem­ber Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, called on the agency to make the in­form­a­tion used to draft spe­cific­a­tions un­der the pro­gram pub­licly avail­able. The sen­at­ors also sug­ges­ted that the agency has not al­ways been will­ing to con­sider the view­points of in­di­vidu­als and or­gan­iz­a­tions that stand to be im­pacted by the cre­ation or re­vi­sion of En­ergy Star stand­ards.

“We ex­pect that stake­hold­ers will be giv­en the op­por­tun­ity to of­fer their in­put, that their views will be fairly con­sidered, that EPA’s de­cisions will be based on a fair and reas­on­able ana­lys­is of the re­cord, and that this re­cord will be made avail­able to stake­hold­ers and the pub­lic,” the let­ter states.

The let­ter comes on the heels of a sim­il­ar re­quest made late last month by a group of 23 House mem­bers seek­ing in­creased trans­par­ency in the pro­gram.

Last week, a bi­par­tis­an co­ali­tion of law­makers, in­clud­ing Reps. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and Cory Gard­ner, R-Colo., sent a sim­il­ar let­ter to Mc­Carthy, this one ques­tion­ing the En­ergy Star pro­gram’s re­cent draft spe­cific­a­tions for win­dows, doors, and sky­lights. EPA’s fi­nal draft ver­sion of the pro­pos­al may in­crease the costs to con­sumers for home-im­prove­ment ma­ter­i­als cer­ti­fied by En­ergy Star, the let­ter ar­gued.

“We be­lieve that a ‘reas­on­able’ pay­back peri­od on cus­tom­er in­vest­ment must be en­sured when the new stand­ards are fi­nal­ized, and we are con­cerned that EPA is not tak­ing this is­sue ser­i­ously enough,” the let­ter states.

The pay­back peri­od refers to the amount of time it will take con­sumers to re­coup the up­front cost of pur­chas­ing a product cer­ti­fied un­der the pro­gram through sav­ings real­ized from en­ergy ef­fi­ciency.

“The agency is ig­nor­ing the real world im­plic­a­tions of their new stand­ards,” the let­ter warns.

It also goes on to say that the pro­cess used to fi­nal­ize the most re­cent draft pro­pos­al for win­dows, doors, and sky­lights was not con­duc­ted in a trans­par­ent man­ner, echo­ing con­cerns raised by sen­at­ors who signed the let­ter sent Tues­day.

The Co­ali­tion for Home En­ergy Ef­fi­ciency, made up of in­di­vidu­als, man­u­fac­tur­ers, and re­tail­ers whose self-de­scribed aim is to “pre­serve and pro­tect” the En­ergy Star pro­gram, fa­cil­it­ated the col­lec­tion of sig­na­tures on both let­ters and is also col­lect­ing sig­na­tures on a pe­ti­tion that will be sent to the White House, both cham­bers of Con­gress, and EPA call­ing for an ad­just­ment to the spe­cific­a­tion for win­dows, doors, and sky­lights.

EPA re­leased a fi­nal draft for its latest spe­cific­a­tion for win­dows, doors, and sky­lights in Ju­ly. The spe­cific­a­tion is ex­pec­ted to be fi­nal­ized in mid-Decem­ber and will take ef­fect at the start of 2015. The agency did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

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