SACRAMENTO - California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today, as part of a coalition of 15 attorneys general and the City of New York, filed a lawsuit challenging the Department of Energy’s failure to review and amend energy efficiency standards for 25 categories of consumer and commercial or industrial products. Energy experts estimate that updating these standards could save over $580 billion in energy costs and avoid over 2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2050. Yet, the Department of Energy missed multiple mandatory deadlines for reviewing and strengthening the standards in violation of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act.
“For the better part of four years, the Trump Administration has utilized a playbook of delay and deception to block energy efficiency standards that make household appliances like refrigerators and washing machines cheaper to run,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The Trump Administration is required by law to strengthen these standards – it shouldn’t need to be forced to do what’s best for the American people. Energy efficiency standards put money back in the pockets of hardworking families. We won't let the Department of Energy continue neglecting its responsibilities.”
Under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, the Department of Energy must periodically ensure that the standards are as stringent as technologically feasible and economically justified. The Department of Energy has currently missed mandatory deadlines for updating efficiency standards applicable to 25 product categories. This delay has resulted in missed opportunities to conserve energy and avoid the economic and environmental costs of energy production and use.
According to the Appliance Standards Awareness Project’s August 2016 Report, the potential energy, emissions, and economic benefits associated with amended standards for just four common appliances - refrigerators and freezers, clothes washers, clothes dryers, and room air conditioners - include annual reductions of more than $7.5 billion in consumer utility costs and 22 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2035.
In the lawsuit, the attorneys general argue that the Department of Energy’s failure to timely review and update the 25 efficiency standards violates the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, frustrates Congress’ energy conservation goals and harms public, state, and local governmental interests. Department of Energy’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. By failing to fulfill its mandatory obligation to update energy efficiency standards, electricity and natural gas consumption will increase, as will energy bills for states, municipalities, and their residents and businesses. In addition, increases in fossil fuel consumption resulting from reduced efficiency lead to increased emissions of air pollutants that negatively impact public health and the environment, including carbon dioxide and other climate-changing gases.
The 25 product categories at issue are refrigerators and freezers, room air conditioners, commercial clothes washers, clothes dryers, small electric motors, pool heaters, water heaters, fluorescent lamp ballasts, residential clothes washers, water- and evaporatively-cooled commercial air conditioners, distribution transformers, microwave ovens, electric motors, furnace fans, direct heating equipment, dishwashers, non-weatherized and mobile home gas furnaces, conventional cooking products, commercial water heating equipment, metal halide lamp fixtures, walk-in coolers and freezers, commercial refrigeration equipment, dedicated outdoor air systems, computer room air conditioners, and variable refrigerant flow air conditioners and heat pumps.
On May 15, 2020, Attorney General Becerra led a multistate coalition in filing a comment letter criticizing the Department of Energy for wasting resources on a prioritization process for its energy efficiency rulemakings, while neglecting its statutory duties to complete those rulemakings. Instead of working to meet these deadlines, the Department of Energy has expended its resources on various unlawful discretionary actions that Attorney General Becerra is currently challenging in court or has opposed in public comments, including its rescission of the general service lamp definition and the Process Rule revisions, as well as its misguided proposals regarding residential furnaces and commercial water heaters and dishwashers.
Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, as well as the City of New York.
A copy of the lawsuit can be found here.