Court Clears the Way for New California Lighting Regulations to Take Effect Tomorrow

SACRAMENTO – A federal court today cleared the way for California’s updated light bulb efficiency standards to take effect tomorrow, thwarting attempts by the lighting industry to block them. The court’s denial of a request for a temporary restraining order means California can proceed with stopping the sale of energy-wasting incandescent bulbs designed to fill 260 million sockets in the state, a move that will cut utility bills while combating climate pollution.

Following is a statement from Noah Horowitz, director of the Center for Energy Efficiency Standards at the Natural Resources Defense Council: 

“Today’s decision keeps California at the forefront of the movement to resist the Trump Department of Energy’s efforts to tie Americans to the technology of the past. Given our climate crisis, it’s appalling that the greedy lighting manufacturers are still fighting these common-sense regulations that deliver massive carbon savings and put money back in consumers’ pockets.”

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association and the American Lighting Association had urged the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California to issue a temporary restraining order against the new standards as part of their lawsuit seeking to reverse the California Energy Commission’s Nov. 13 decision to expand its minimum efficiency standards for light bulbs. Today’s denial did not include a date for court proceedings to begin on the lighting associations’ lawsuit.

The associations are fighting the addition of such common household types as the candle- and flame-shaped bulbs used in chandeliers and sconces, reflector bulbs used in recessed cans and track lighting, round globe bulbs, and the bulbs that can operate at three different light levels – the same models the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently eliminated from being covered by national lighting efficiency standards. NRDC and others have sued over the rollback.

Energy efficient LED and CFL bulbs will continue to be sold in the state but incandescent and halogen bulbs, which waste up to 90 percent of their energy as heat, will be removed from store shelves as of January 1 because they do not meet the minimum efficiency level of 45 lumens per watt. 

The updated standards will save Californians as much as $2.4 billion on their annual utility bills – and avoid up to 13,600 gigawatt-hours of annual electricity use – once the current stock of inefficient bulbs turns over. The savings are in addition to state standards that went into effect in 2018 for the pear-shaped bulbs used in table and floor lamps, and small diameter reflector bulbs for track and recessed lighting. DOE also recently said it would not update national standards to the level California implemented last year.

The decision to deny the restraining order can be found here. A blog related to choosing the best bulbs is being posted here. Background on the California standards can be found here:  

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC