The Energy Department yesterday proposed allowing five states to keep their own energy efficiency standards for gas ranges, ovens and clothes dryers. The standards for Minnesota, California, New York, Oregon and Wisconsin would require an "intermittent ignition device" instead of a pilot light.

The combined effect of the DOE's decision last December to set no federal standard for these appliances and yesterday's proposal to allow states to set their own, in effect, rolls the clock back to 1978, when Congress passed a law telling the DOE to set energy standards that would supersede the patchwork of state standards then in place.

The Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association, the trade association for the appliance makers most affected, voiced no immediate reaction to the notice, but a spokesman for the Energy Conservation Coalition, a GAMA opponent, said any manufacturers' protests were likely to be more philosophical than substantive since intermittent ignition devices are common in many appliances.

In its Dec. 22 ruling that there would be no federal energy efficiency standard for these appliances, the department said, "There is no inconsistency in DOE rejecting the views, opinions, conclusions, methodologies or judgments of a state in its comments on the proposed federal 'no-standard' standard and yet deferring to that state" and upholding the state's right to set its own standard.

"The administration's theology turns it in the strangest directions," said Alan Miller of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "This energy conservation law is being used against energy conservation and inconsistently with the idea of uniformity."

The department has not yet made final its controversial proposal to set no energy efficiency standard for seven other major appliances, including refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners and water heaters. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has sent a bill to the floor that would prohibit the department from preempting state energy efficiency standards with a federal "no-standard" standard.