A federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled Friday that consumer appliance manufacturers must comply with state laws that require them to display information about energy consumption on products they sell in California.
The ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower-court decision in a 2002 lawsuit filed by appliance manufacturers associations against the California Energy Commission. The appliance makers contended that California's energy-disclosure requirements were superseded by federal laws, which are generally less strict.
For consumers, the labeling requirement probably will mean that appliances such as room air conditioners and washing machines will be tagged with a rating of the product's performance in relation to the energy it uses, said Jonathan Blees, an energy commission attorney.
"It's been a long-standing battle, but we believe it's in the best interest of California," said Christy Dennis, a spokeswoman for PG&E Corp.'s Pacific Gas & Electric Co., which supported the commission in the case.
John Hodges, an attorney for the appliance manufacturers, said his clients had not decided whether to appeal the ruling, which was handed down by a three-judge panel.
"What these regulations mean is that a product covered by the federal statute can be marketed everywhere in the U.S. except California, unless California's burdensome requirements are followed," Hodges said.
California requires manufacturers to report information on appliances as part of its energy efficiency program. When consumers buy appliances that are certified energy efficient, they are entitled to a rebate from their local power utility.
The labeling requirement and the state's database form the backbone of the rebate program, said Energy Commissioner Arthur Rosenfeld.
The annual savings, he said, are about 10% of the total electric bill for all California consumers, or $3.5 billion in 2004.
The database, according to the court, contains more than 135,000 products.
In its opinion, the court held that California was justified in requiring additional information for its energy efficiency program, said William Chamberlain, a commission lawyer.