COURT: Trump Administration Illegally Delayed 4 Efficiency Standards

$8 Billion in Utility Bill Savings Were at Risk

SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal appeals court today ruled the U.S. Department of Energy illegally stalled four energy efficiency standards that could save U.S. households and businesses at least $8 billion and avoid 100 million tons of carbon pollution -- the latest in a string of legal defeats for the Trump administration.

The ruling today was a victory for the Natural Resources Defense Council, other public interest groups, 11 states, and the City of New York, which argued the now more than 2.5-year delay was unwarranted.

Following is a statement from Kit Kennedy, senior director of the Climate and Clean Energy Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“This ruling just saved Americans $8.4 billion on their energy bills and avoids up to 100 million extra tons of carbon pollution over the next three decades. By refusing to allow the Trump administration to block these commonsense efficiency standards, the court prevented an incredibly successful, and bipartisan, energy-saving program from becoming a political issue that an administration can change on a whim. Today’s decision is good news for our climate future, and for the rule of law.”

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco involves delayed U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) standards for portable air conditioners, uninterruptible power supplies (the battery backup systems used to keep computers and other electronic devices running when the power goes out), air compressors used in a variety of commercial and industrial applications, and packaged boilers that heat one-fourth of the nation’s commercial space. The DOE estimated that together they could save U.S. consumers $8.4 billion and avoid a whopping 99 million metric tons of carbon pollution over the next 30 years – equal to powering 10.6 million U.S. homes annually.

The decision comes as the DOE under the Trump administration has neither issued nor updated a single efficiency standard – nor even released any for consideration; has missed upward of 20 legal deadlines for reviewing current standards; is trying to roll back lighting efficiency standards; and has proposed changes that will erect new hurdles to its process for establishing standards.


The four contested efficiency standards were finalized and signed in December 2016 but not immediately published in the Federal Register–the final step required for them to go into effect--because DOE rules require a 45-day “error correction” period to address any minor typographic or computational errors. That period ended in early 2017, but the signed, final rules were not published. The only corrections requested were for the commercial boiler standard, but the DOE still had a legal duty to publish the standard, along with any necessary corrections.

NRDC and Earthjustice--representing the Sierra Club, the Consumer Federation of America, and Texas Ratepayers’ Organization to Save Energy–filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on June 13, 2017. A separate lawsuit was filed by the attorneys general for California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the City of New York.

The decision comes as the Trump administration has made essentially no forward progress on efficiency standards for dozens of other appliances and equipment since taking office. The DOE has missed legal deadlines for review of at least 18 product standards and more than a dozen test procedures; is trying to roll back lighting efficiency standards; and has proposed changes that will erect new hurdles to its process for establishing standards.

Senior energy policy advocate Lauren Urbanek will post a reaction blog here

For background on other concerns about how the Trump administration is addressing energy efficiency standards, see this blog:


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.

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