Next Week in Corporate Congress: Lawmakers Use Energy Star Program as Cover to Shield Manufacturers From Accountability

Business for DemocracyAfter a week off, the Corporate Congress returns to the nation’s capital on Monday. Here are a couple of public interest attacks we are watching:

– Lawmakers will discuss a proposal to effectively give legal immunity to manufacturers that don’t comply with energy efficiency standards. The proposal is part of a discussion draft (PDF) related to energy efficiency. The draft will be considered at 2 p.m. Wednesday and again at 10:15 a.m. Thursday by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy & Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power.

The proposal amends the Energy Policy and Conservation Act to restrict consumer claims against manufacturers of products that don’t comply with the Energy Star program but still tout the Energy Star label. The immunity applies only if the government takes some action against the manufacturer, such as disqualifying it from the program. (Energy Star is used by manufacturers and relied upon by consumers as they increasingly demand energy-saving products. The mark comes with a promise that the appliance will achieve a set amount of savings for consumers.)

Some unscrupulous manufacturers put the Energy Star label on appliances that do not, in fact, meet the program requirements or deliver the promised savings. The legislation would stop consumers from suing the manufacturers for those losses if the government has sanctioned the manufacturer in any way, however inadequately.

The corporate giveaway contained in the bill is an answer to a problem that doesn’t really exist, experts say. Consumers aren’t rushing in droves to sue manufacturers over energy savings they aren’t getting. But the legislation would remove incentives for manufacturers to meet the Energy Star program’s requirements and would enable manufacturers to avoid accountability for misrepresenting the energy savings of their products.

– At 9 a.m. Thursday, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology holds a hearing to examine the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “regulatory overreach” and its effect on competition. This once again perpetuates a negative myth about rules designed to curb climate change, and ensure clean air and water.

In fact, such safeguards are extremely popular. People want the government to protect the air and water. The overwhelming majority of voters (PDF) in both parties appreciate the need for regulation generally and want increased enforcement. And according to a recent poll by the League of Conservation Voters, voters favor the EPA’s clean water rule by a wide margin.

Plus, many in the business community support strong and effective regulation because high standards and clear rules of the road are essential components of a prospering and fair economy.

The anti-regulatory canard is a device used by corporate shills in Congress to let corporations cut corners when it comes to public protections.

To talk to an expert, contact Angela Bradbery at the email address or number listed above.