Delayed Appliance Efficiency Rules Spark Lawsuits from States

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By John Herzfeld

Eleven Democratic state attorneys general and a coalition of environmental groups sued Energy Secretary Rick Perry June 13 for delaying Obama administration energy efficiency standards for five common electrical appliances ( California v. Perry , N.D. Cal., No. 4:17-cv-3406, 6/13/17 ).

The Energy Department’s failure to publish the rules in the Federal Register after their December approval violated three federal laws, the states’ lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleged. The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, Earthjustice, and the National Consumer Federation filed a similar action.

The Sierra Club has received funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization founded by Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg L.P.Bloomberg BNA is an affiliate of Bloomberg L.P.

The litigation is the latest step in a drive by Democratic-led states and advocacy groups to oppose President Donald Trump’s plans to cut federal energy and environmental regulations.

The consumer and commercial products covered by the lawsuits are portable air conditioners, uninterruptible power supplies, air compressors, walk-in coolers and freezers, and commercial packaged boilers.

Uninterruptible power supplies are battery backup systems used to keep computers and other electronic devices running when the power goes out; air compressors are used in a variety of commercial and industrial applications; walk-in coolers and freezers are found in grocery stores and other locations; and packaged boilers heat one-fourth of the nation’s commercial space, according to the environmental groups.

30-Day Period Lapsed

The efficiency standards, developed over several years during the Obama administration, went through a 45-day period for submission of correction requests after being approved by the Energy Department. They were due to be submitted for publication in the Federal Register 30 days after that, making them legally enforceable.

But the department, under the Trump administration, didn’t complete the final step, the lawsuit said, calling that “a clear violation” of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the Federal Register Act.

Leading the legal action were Democratic Attorneys General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York and Xavier Becerra of California. Joining in the action were Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and New York City.

The appliance standards, they said, would save consumers and businesses an estimated $11.6 billion, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 159 million tons, and conserve over 242 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, over 30 years.

AG: ‘Stop Stalling’

Becerra said in a statement that the department is “blocking common-sense energy efficiency standards” and called for the Trump administration to “stop stalling and start following the law.”

Schneiderman and other Democratic attorneys general took credit for the May 24 publication of energy efficiency standards for ceiling fans after they sued over a similar a delay. Related standards were published May 26 for pool pumps, central air conditioners and heat pumps, and refrigeration products.

The Energy Department told Bloomberg BNA in a statement that it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

To contact the reporter on this story: John Herzfeld in New York at jherzfeld@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at rdaigle@bna.com

For More Information

The 11-state lawsuit is available at http://src.bna.com/pOR.

The advocacy groups' lawsuit is available at http://src.bna.com/pON.

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