Maryland Further Restricts Appliance Efficiency Choices

Published March 1, 2004

Fresh on the heels of a federal appellate court decision restricting consumer choice in household air conditioners, the Maryland House of Delegates has passed legislation imposing even stricter standards on a wide range of appliances.

On January 20, the House of Delegates overrode Governor Bob Ehrlich’s (R) veto of legislation that appears to be the most restrictive in the nation. The new law imposes onerous energy efficiency standards on a wide range of items, including ceiling fans, refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, and heaters.

“Nationally, this is probably the most comprehensive energy efficiency bill,” said Senator Paul Pinsky (D), who introduced the bill in the Maryland legislature.

Environmental activist groups have drawn up plans to introduce identical legislation in several other states. Moreover, fearing the expense of dealing with a patchwork of inconsistent state efficiency standards, the Gas Appliances Manufacturers Association responded to the Maryland bill by entering into discussions with environmental groups regarding standards that would not vary from state to state.

Just one week before the Maryland vote, on January 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected a Bush administration proposal to require a 20 percent energy efficiency improvement in air conditioners and heat pumps, noting the plan was not as stringent as a 30 percent improvement proposed by the Clinton administration. Because the Clinton proposal had completed the formal rulemaking process, the court determined, the Bush administration could not lower the efficiency requirement. Consumer advocates and appliance makers had protested the Clinton requirement would make appliances prohibitively expensive for many consumers.

James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News. His email address is [email protected].