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Environmental and Consumer Groups and 11 States Sue Trump Administration Over Stalled Energy Efficiency Standards

Bill savings and pollution reductions from five standards at risk
Rick Perry, in Orlando, Florida, 2011.

Rick Perry, in Orlando, Florida, 2011.

Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0
June 13, 2017
San Francisco —

Earthjustice—representing Sierra Club and Consumer Federation of America—joined the Natural Resources Defense Council, 11 states, and the city of New York today in suing the Trump administration for illegally stalling five energy efficiency standards that could save consumers as much as $11 billion on their energy bills. 

The delayed Department of Energy standards are for portable air conditioners, uninterruptible power supplies (the battery backup systems used to keep computers and other electronic devices running when the power goes out), air compressors used in a variety of commercial and industrial applications, walk-in coolers and freezers found in grocery stores and other locations, and packaged boilers that heat one-fourth of the nation’s commercial space.

“It’s not clear whether the Trump administration is refusing to publish these rules because of ideological hostility to cost-saving regulations that benefit the environment, or whether they simply cannot get their act together to publish documents that have already been approved and signed,” said Timothy Ballo, Earthjustice attorney. “When a broad cross-section of American families and businesses stand to benefit from a newly approved regulation, we usually don’t have to step in to ensure that regulation gets published in the Federal Register, but these are strange times. Publication is the last step in a very long public process for these standards, and it’s past time that we reap the financial and environmental benefits.”   

“These delays are not only baffling, they’re unnecessary and illegal,” said Kit Kennedy, director of NRDC’s Energy and Transportation Program. “The Trump administration is inexplicably blocking the final step for standards that the Department of Energy last year signed off on as cost-effective with major benefits for consumers and the environment. All five rules have gone through a rigorous and legally required rulemaking process with ample opportunity for input. We’re standing up today for American families and businesses. These delays are hurting their budgets and creating uncertainty for U.S. manufacturers that need to make critical decisions about their product lines.”

“It's very disconcerting and unfair to consumers that these five rules have been held up by the administration,” said Mel Hall-Crawford, director of Energy Programs at Consumer Federation of America. “The process has been completed. The rules need to be 'freed' so consumers and businesses can reap the economic benefits.”

"By failing to publish these energy efficiency standards, the Trump administration is undermining common-sense steps to clean up our air and save working families money,” said Marta Darby, Sierra Club associate attorney.

“Every family and every business can be part of the climate change solution by using more energy-efficient appliances,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “However, the Department of Energy is blocking common-sense energy efficiency standards. This is absurd. The Trump Administration should stop stalling and start following the law."

Earthjustice—representing the Sierra Club and the Consumer Federation of America— and NRDC sent a letter on April 3 threatening to sue the Department of Energy (DOE) if it did not release the energy efficiency standards by publishing them in the Federal Register within 60 days. DOE has not published the standards and the groups filed suit today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

A separate state coalition lawsuit filed today was led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Joining them are Bob Ferguson, Washington State Attorney General; Janet T. Mills, Maine Attorney General; George Jepsen, Connecticut Attorney General; Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General; T.J. Donovan, Vermont Attorney General; Ellen F. Rosenblum, Oregon Attorney General; Brian E. Frosh, Maryland Attorney General; Maura Healey, Massachusetts Attorney General, and Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania Attorney General. The City of New York is also a Plaintiff in the lawsuit. The same entities had filed a notice of intent to sue on April 3.

 

Background Information

The five efficiency standards were finalized and signed in December 2016 but not immediately published in the Federal Register as DOE rules allow a 45-day “error correction” period to address any minor typographic or computational errors. That “error correction” period ended in early 2017, but the signed rules have yet to be published to make them effective, despite specific legal requirements to do so. 

By law, the DOE is charged with establishing and periodically updating energy efficiency standards for dozens of household and commercial products. The enabling statute was signed into law by President Reagan in 1987 and strengthened under President George W. Bush. The program is supported by consumer, low-income and environmental advocates as well as by states and utilities, and has a long history of manufacturer participation and support. Standards completed through 2016 are expected to cumulatively save consumers more than $1 trillion on their utility bills by 2020 and more than $2 trillion by 2030. Standards help cut carbon pollution from power plants, too—more than 3 billion tons of carbon emissions have been avoided since the program began.

Together, the five standards would produce more than $11 billion in consumer savings while avoiding 25 million metric tons of climate pollution over 30 years. 

The legal document submitted by NRDC, Earthjustice and other environmental and consumer advocacy organizations is available here.