States, Nonprofits Sue Energy Department for Blowing Off Efficiency Standards

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Eleven states and the city of New York zapped the U.S. Department of Energy with a federal lawsuit Tuesday, claiming its failure to roll out new efficiency standards for appliances will lead to more planet-warming carbon emissions and higher costs for consumers.

“These common-sense energy efficiency standards are vital to our public health, our environment, and consumers’ pocketbook,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a statement. “Yet the Trump administration’s policies put polluters before everyday Americans.”

Since taking office in January, U.S. President Donald Trump has unveiled an “America First Energy Plan” that promises to roll back “burdensome regulations,” which he calls harmful to American businesses and workers.

The new efficiency standards for large appliances and industrial equipment were set to take effect after a 45-day review period that started in December 2016. The standards would apply to five categories of equipment, including  air conditioners, uninterruptible power supplies, air compressors, walk-in coolers and freezers, and commercial boilers.

By 2030, the new rules would conserve more energy than the U.S. produces in a year, save consumers and businesses an estimated $1.6 trillion, and cut 6.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions, which is equal to taking every automobile in the world off the road for a nearly a year and a half, according to Department of Energy estimates cited in the complaint.

“Every family and every business can be part of the climate change solution by using more energy-efficient appliances,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “However, the Department of Energy is blocking common-sense energy efficiency standards. This is absurd.”

Led by California and New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington and the city of New York joined the complaint.

But that wasn’t the only lawsuit the Department of Energy faced on Tuesday. Three conservation and consumer groups – the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Consumer Federation of America also sued over the stalled standards.

Timothy Ballo, an EarthJustice attorney representing the nonprofits, said in a statement that it is unclear whether the Trump administration is refusing to publish the new standards because of “hostility to cost-saving regulations that benefit the environment, or whether they cannot get their act together to publish documents that have already been approved and signed.”

According to the complaints, federal law requires that the new standards be published in the federal register after a mandatory 45-day review period intended to give the agency time to correct any typos, miscalculations or numerical errors.

Both lawsuits name James “Rick” Perry as the lead defendant. Perry, former governor of Texas,  once called for eliminating the Energy Department before Trump tapped him to head the federal agency. The U.S. Senate confirmed him as Energy Secretary in March.

The complaints claim the failure to publish and implement the new standards violates the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the Federal Register Act.

Plaintiffs in both suits seek an injunction requiring the Department of Energy to publish and execute the new efficiency standards.

A U.S. Department of Energy spokesperson said in an email that the agency “does not comment on pending litigation.”





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