States Sue Trump Administration For Delaying Energy Efficiency Standards On Multiple Products

Image courtesy of Scott Ogle

Since January, the Trump administration has twice delayed new energy efficiency standards for ceiling fans, and has not published the finalized efficiency standards for a number of other products like air compressors, backup power supplies, and portable air conditioners. Now, two separate lawsuits are asking a court to intervene and put an end to these delays.

The Department of Energy published its final “Energy Conservation Standards for Ceiling Fans” rule [PDF] in the Federal Register on Jan. 19, with an effective date of March 20.

These rules were one of many, many items targeted by the House Freedom Caucus in its wish list to the incoming administration. They claimed that “conservation rules are a part of the green agenda being pushed by the left,” and that the extra costs harm real estate developers.

On Jan. 31, the Dept. of Energy delayed the rule’s effective date for 60 days, “to give DOE officials the opportunity for further review and consideration of new regulations.”

Then on March 21, the agency once again delayed the regulation, this time until Sept. 30. The explanation was that, since Energy Secretary Rick Perry had only begun his new job on March 3, he had been “unable to accomplish the review and consideration” within the original timeframe.

Two separate petitions — one filed by a coalition of 10 states [PDF], and the other brought by a group of consumer and environmental advocates [PDF] — are now asking the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse these delays in the ceiling fan standard.

The lawsuits contend that, by seeking to revise the rule, Secy. Perry is violating the “anti-backsliding” provision of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, which states that the Secretary “may not prescribe any amended standard which increases the maximum allowable energy use… or decreases the minimum required energy efficiency, of a covered product.”

Additionally, by looking to revise a finalized federal regulation — one that has been published in the Federal Register — without going through the required process of notifying the public and seeking comment, the petitioners argue that Secy. Perry is violating the Administrative Procedures Act.

While opponents of these rules argue that they may harm manufacturers, supporters counter that ceiling fan makers are actually being left in limbo because of the delay. Because while the effective date has been moved to September, the compliance time window for manufacturers remains the same.

Lauren Urbanek, with the Natural Resources Defense Council, says that “if manufacturers decide to hold off on starting the process to re-tool their product lines due to the uncertainty created by the DOE, they could lose precious time… The delay could mean that manufacturers have less time to develop products that are up to the mark.”

Joining the NRDC in its petition is the Sierra Club, the Consumer Federation of America, and the Texas Ratepayers’ Organization to Save Energy.

The states’ lawsuit is being led by New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Other states involved are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and the City of New York.

When reached for comment by Consumerist, a rep for the Department says it does not comment on pending litigation.

In addition to delaying the effective date of the ceiling fan rule, the Energy folks have elected to not publish five finalized rules to the Federal Register, despite their being finalized in Dec. 2016. These include new efficiency standards for portable air-conditioners, walk-in freezers and coolers, commercial boilers, air compressors, and backup power supplies. According to federal regulations, these rules were to have been published in the Register by March 15.

The state coalition — adding in Maryland — today sent a letter [PDF] to Secy. Perry advising him that failure to publish these regulations may result in litigation. The NRDC and Sierra Club filed a separate 60-day notice of intention to sue the Department of Energy [PDF] if the rules are not published.

“Energy efficiency standards are vital to public health, our environment, and consumers,” says Schneiderman. “By blocking these common-sense standards, the administration is reversing progress in cleaning the air we breathe and fighting climate change – and denying consumers and businesses some $24 billion in savings.”

The Department has not yet responded to our specific questions regarding the delay in publishing these five rules. We will update if we receive a response.