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A "New Suit" for Shivering New Yorkers

January 24, 2008

New York, NY — As New Yorkers brace for another cold blast this morning, the U.s. Department of Energy (DOE) is being sued over claims it's not doing enough to make home furnaces more efficient. Earthjustice brought the suit, and attorney Tim Ballo says the DOE could have set a more aggressive efficiency standard, resulting in New Yorkers paying less for their home heating bills, while reducing a major source of global warming pollution.

"They could have eliminated 140 million tons of CO2 at a profit for consumers. This would have saved consumers as much as $11 billion according to the DOE's own estimates."

Ballo says the agency essentially gave the industry 8 years to meet standards that most furnaces already achieve. The DOE says higher standards could place a burden on industry, and asked for more time to consider higher efficiency standards, but its request was blocked by the court.

Ballo explains when less efficient furnaces are allowed to go on the market, it is low-income tenants who often end up footing the bill.

"The landlords making the decisions about which furnace to purchase don't necessarily pay those utility bills. They can buy the cheapest, least efficient furnace and pass the cost of the high heating bill onto the tenants. This is essentially a transfer of wealth, from those low-income renters to the oil and natural gas industry who gets to sell a lot more natural gas and a lot more heating oil."

In addition to the Earthjustice lawsuit, both the City and State of New York, as well as Connecticut and Massachusetts, are challenging the new DOE efficiency standards in court.

More information on furnaces and efficiency is available online at www.eere.energy.gov .

Michael Clifford/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - NY