Commentary

Curt McCormack: Bill protects energy efficiency standards

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Rep. Curt McCormack, of Burlington, a Democrat who represents the Chittenden 6-3 district in the Vermont House of Representatives.

Regarding President Trump and Congress’ agenda of dismantling 40-year-old bipartisan environmental protections, the Vermont Legislature has found one threatened function of the federal government can be assumed by the individual states. After the Corporate Average Fleet Efficiency (CAFE, automobile gas mileage), the law that saves the most energy of all programs is the federal efficiency standards for appliances (more than 55 different products). And of course, both this and the CAFE standards have been threatened by the president and by members of Congress.

Recently, the Vermont House and Senate passed the final version of a bill, H.411, that covers both of the following possibilities: the feds keeping the program and what to do if they do not. In the first scenario, the Vermont law would not be enforced and nothing happens at the state level. In the second scenario, Vermont would take over the exact standards and enforce them. After years of the Department of Energy and manufacturers working together to bring about these standards, the products are already on the shelves saving Vermonters thousands of dollars every year, $2.3 trillion nationwide by 2030, in electric bills.

The Legislature should continue to look for opportunities like energy efficiency standards and the bill we passed to legally refuse to cooperate with the federal government on certain immigration enforcement tactics. These strategies should make up much of our work in the next four years.

 

Not to be confused with the EPA’s voluntary Energy Star program, the appliance efficiency program provides for minimum standards that all products, where a standard exists, must meet. Under the law, the DOE must work with the relevant industries and must find that any standard that results in an increase in the cost of a product saves more than that increase in reduced energy consumption.

We would be the second state to put forward this legislation, California, as usual, being first. As a nationwide strategy, the hope is that enough states will follow suit and Congress and the administration would see the wisdom of keeping the standards in place even if saving tremendous amounts of energy is not a priority of theirs. Indeed, these federal standards came about as one state after another, including Vermont, were passing efficiency standards for appliances. Industry went to Congress asking for a uniform, national set of standards and pre-emption of any different state standards. Congress agreed. And every president since, starting with Gerald Ford, have supported the many advances of the standards under this program until President Trump.

The Legislature should continue to look for opportunities like energy efficiency standards and the bill we passed to legally refuse to cooperate with the federal government on certain immigration enforcement tactics. These strategies should make up much of our work in the next four years.

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  • Sarah Wolfe

    Thank you for your work on this, Rep. McCormack! Such an important way to hold the line against Federal attempts to roll back our efficiency efforts.