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Energy Efficiency Police: DOE Steps Up Enforcement

In another low-hanging-fruit-turned new-sheriff-in-town story: the Department of Energy is showing its commitment and legal gumption about federal appliance standards and the Energy Star label. The government agency is now preparing to take "aggressive" action against any appliance manufacturers that did not meet its Jan. 8 deadline to submit correct energy use data.

The DOE said Tuesday it had received certifications for more than 600,000 residential appliances in response to its stepped up energy efficiency enforcement campaign. Appliance makers were given a 30-day window to provide the necessary data. DOE will begin "aggressively enforcing these reporting requirements, including seeking civil penalties or fines," now that the deadline has passed. The DOE also will go after any manufacturer whose products do not meet the federal efficiency standards.

It's mission? To ensure all of those refrigerators, dishwashers and air conditioners meet the DOE's minimum conservation appliance standards. The government agency has also pledged to protect the Energy Star label, a special designation given to appliances that meet stricter energy efficiency standards. And they are serious.

Just ask LG Electronics or Haier America. A DOE investigation of Haier America found a parts defect caused certain freezers to consume more energy than represented to consumers and possibly violated the agency's energy efficiency standardsand Energy Star requirements for freezers. Haier America must notify consumers, repair the defective units and pay a voluntary contribution to the U.S. Treasury as part of a consent decree announced last week.

And as of Jan. 2, LG Electronics are banned from using the Energy Star label on its French-door refrigerator-freezers. A Consumer Reports test of LG's French-door refrigerators in 2008 found energy usage was twice than the company claimed. LG responded by filing a lawsuit against DOE.