WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Susan Collins, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, on Wednesday welcomed news that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) have announced significant changes to the Energy Star program, all aimed at bolstering its certification process to ensure that only products which meet energy-efficiency requirements receive the coveted blue logo.
EPA and DOE, which jointly operate the Energy Star program, announced the changes Wednesday, following a critical investigation by the Government Accountability Office. That probe, which Senator Collins requested, identified glaring quality gaps in the certification and oversight processes, making the program vulnerable to fraud. The gaps were so great that the GAO, in a sting operation, was able to obtain Energy Star partner status for four bogus companies and to secure Energy Star approval for 15 of 20 fake products, including a gasoline-powered alarm clock.
Ahead of the announced changes by EPA and DOE, both agencies briefed Senator Collins Wednesday morning on their plans.
“I am very pleased that EPA and DOE moved quickly and appropriately to address the serious flaws uncovered during GAO’s investigation of the Energy Star program,” Senator Collins said. “The action plan unveiled today comes on the heels of a stunning Government Accountability Office probe revealing that the program was vulnerable to fraud, and responds to my letter urging that reforms be undertaken. I initially asked for the GAO investigation because I was concerned about the oversight of the Energy Star certification program. As the GAO findings in this investigation indicated, Energy Star wasn’t just slipping a bit; it was in danger of falling off the quality cliff.
“Clearly, urgent and meaningful reforms are required to restore the program’s credibility. Properly managed, the Energy Star program can encourage energy efficiency and save consumer and taxpayer dollars. The reforms announced today are major steps in the right direction.”
Following the GAO investigation, Senator Collins sent a letter to the DOE and EPA on March 31, urging the agencies to swiftly address the problems uncovered by the probe in order to protect the Energy Star program’s credibility and integrity.
Energy Star is a voluntary labeling program designed to promote energy-efficient products. With its well-known blue logo, it is seen as a trustworthy source for informing consumers about products that deliver the same or better performance as comparable models, while using less energy and thereby also saving money.
The program was started in 1992 to help consumers identify and purchase the most energy-efficient products. It was created in response to the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 and the Energy Policy Act of 1992. In general, the program is designed to identify models for approximately 60 categories of household and commercial products that are the most energy efficient – meaning efficiencies of 10 to 25 percent above minimum federal standards.
In 2008, the Energy Star program reported saving consumers $19 billion dollars on utility costs. The federal government also encourages this program by offering tax credits and other incentives to encourage people to buy Energy Star products. For example, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides approximately $300 million for states to establish rebate programs for consumers who purchase energy-efficient products.
Copies of the letters that the EPA and DOE sent to Senator Collins regarding the Energy Star changes are attached, along with her March 31 letter to the agencies.