NEW YORK (AP) – Three states, a big city and an environmental group asked a court on Thursday to block the Bush administration from implementing new furnace efficiency standards that critics say will save little money or energy.

New York City, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York state joined the Natural Resources Defense Council in the attack on new rules for residential gas and oil furnaces that were announced by the U.S. Department of Energy in November.

Their petitions, filed before a federal appeals court in Manhattan, seek to have the regulations tossed out on the grounds that they are too weak and will do little to curb pollution or help consumers hit by high energy costs.

“This is just the product of an administration and agency that is hostile to anything that would effect the industry,” said Tim Ballo, an attorney with the legal advocacy group Earthjustice, which is representing the NRDC.

A Department of Energy spokeswoman defended the rules, saying they would save money and help the environment.

She said the department had been interested in the possible implementation of tougher standards but couldn’t meet a court-imposed deadline; the department had asked for more time, but it wasn’t granted.

“Our hands were tied,” DOE spokeswoman Megan Barnett said.

The new rules, replacing standards drafted in 1987, will require all residential gas furnaces to be at least 80 percent efficient by 2015, compared to the current minimum of 78 percent. Minimum oil furnace efficiency would rise from 78 percent to 82 percent.

A more efficient furnace uses less power and burns less fuel to produce heat.

Environmental groups have laughed off those changes as nearly meaningless. Almost all gas furnaces now sold in the U.S. already meet that standard, meaning the new rules are obsolete.

Clean-energy advocates wanted the efficiency level for gas furnaces set at 90 percent or higher. That would have required makers of the equipment to improve about two-thirds of all furnaces now sold.

The validity of the new rules will go before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which could toss out the rules if it finds that the Department of Energy imposed them arbitrarily or capriciously.

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