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Conservation on the Line New England Puts "Right To Dry" Legislation Through The Wringer

From Connecticut to California, homeowners—including condominium-dwellers—are looking for ways to cut energy expenses. And, increasingly, their attention has focused on an appliance recognized as an energy hog: the clothes dryer.

The alternative to the dryer, one of the major consumers of home energy, is obvious. The lowly clothesline, long disdained as old-fashioned, or worse, is being promoted by everyone from former vice president Al Gore to officials at the U. S. Department of Energy.But the rock-star status of the clothesline stops at the driveway of most community associations across the country. Homeowners like Mary Lou Sayer of Concord, New Hampshire, and David Duval of New London, Connecticut, have made headlines lately by suggesting that community association rules prohibiting clotheslines are, in Duval’s words, “ridiculous” and should be outlawed.

In recent months, the tug-of-war between homeowners who want to save energy by hanging their laundry out to dry and those who prefer not to see their neighbor’s clothes flapping in the breeze has escalated along with the rising cost of energy.

And in state after state, the “right to dry” contingent is pinning its hopes on legislation that will override association rules banning clotheslines. “We have active members in all the New England states,” says Alexander Lee, founder of the Concord, New Hampshire-based Project Laundry List. His advocacy organization (which can be found at www.laundrylist.org) has been talking up the benefits of clotheslines for a dozen years. And as energy costs—and interest in energy conservation—have soared, the issue has moved to the front burner for voters and legislators.

The 2008 legislative sessions in Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut all entertained bills that, to one degree or another, would prohibit bans on outdoor laundry lines.

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