Attorney General Becerra Files Lawsuit Challenging the Trump Administration over Irrational New Obstacles for the Issuance of Energy Efficiency Standards

Tuesday, April 14, 2020
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SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today, leading a coalition of 14 attorneys general and the City of New York, filed a lawsuit in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the Department of Energy’s (DOE) revisions to its Process Rule. Adopted in 1996, the rule ensures DOE meets an Energy Policy Conservation Act mandate to create energy conservation standards that benefit the public in a timely manner. The DOE's recent revisions, however, create a number of roadblocks to the adoption of new standards and the review of existing standards. For example, DOE imposes an unreasonably high threshold for energy efficiency savings – effectively prohibiting the adoption of any standard that does not result in energy savings equivalent to powering eight million homes for an entire year. In the lawsuit, Attorney General Becerra will argue that this threshold is impermissibly high and would result in the unnecessary loss of significant energy savings.

“The Trump Administration is irresponsibly rewriting a rule that helps consumers save money and decreases pollution to our environment,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Americans sheltering in place are already struggling with higher electricity bills, they shouldn’t have to worry about the federal government jacking up the price by blocking standards that make lightbulbs, refrigerators, and washing machines cheaper to run. That is why we stand ready to fight the Trump Administration’s latest senseless action protecting industry laggards and undermining efficiency innovators at the expense of our communities.”

DOE’s long-standing energy efficiency program has resulted in substantial economic and environmental benefits, with more than $2 trillion in projected consumer savings and 2.6 billion tons of avoided carbon dioxide emissions. DOE has achieved many of these benefits through rulemaking under the Process Rule. DOE’s revisions now threaten that progress. DOE itself acknowledges that the higher threshold will reduce energy savings and increase GHG and pollutant emissions. Despite this, DOE unlawfully exempted its action from the environmental review required under the National Environmental Policy Act. 

Attorney General Becerra has fought to preserve energy efficiency standards that save consumers money and help protect the environment. Last week, Attorney General Becerra filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit to protect the DOE’s energy standard for commercial boilers from an industry-backed challenge. In 2019, Attorney General Becerra, co-leading a coalition of attorneys general, filed a lawsuit challenging DOE’s final rule rolling back energy efficiency standards for certain lightbulbs. Previously, Attorney General Becerra sued to challenge DOE’s failure to publish finalized energy efficiency standards for portable air conditioners, generators, air compressors, boilers, and walk-in coolers and freezers. A district court ruled in 2018 that DOE’s action was unlawful, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling in 2019. In 2017, as part of a multistate coalition, Attorney General Becerra filed a lawsuit in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals challenging DOE’s unlawful delay of enforcement of energy efficiency standards for ceiling fans. As a result of the lawsuit, DOE changed course and let the standards go into effect. 

In filing the lawsuit, Attorney General Becerra is joined by the attorneys general of Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, as well as the City of New York.

A copy of the lawsuit is available here.

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