NRDC & Other Environmental and Consumer Groups, 11 States & NYC Sue Over Stalled Efficiency Standards

Bill savings and pollution reductions from 5 standards at risk

SAN FRANCISCO—The Natural Resources Defense Council and Earthjustice—representing Sierra Club and Consumer Federation of America—joined 11 states and the city of New York today in suing the Trump administration, as promised, for illegally stalling five energy efficiency standards that could save consumers as much as $11 billion on their energy bills.

The delayed Department of Energy standards are 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, walk-in coolers and freezers found in grocery stores and other locations, and packaged boilers that heat one-fourth of the nation’s commercial space.

“These delays are not only baffling, they’re unnecessary and illegal,” said Kit Kennedy, director of NRDC’s Energy and Transportation Program. “The Trump administration is inexplicably blocking the final step for standards that the Department of Energy last year signed off on as cost-effective with major benefits for consumers and the environment. All five rules have gone through a rigorous and legally required rulemaking process with ample opportunity for input. We’re standing up today for American families and businesses. These delays are hurting their budgets and creating uncertainty for U.S. manufacturers that need to make critical decisions about their product lines.”

“It’s not clear whether the Trump administration is refusing to publish these rules because of ideological hostility to cost-saving regulations that benefit the environment, or whether they simply cannot get their act together to publish documents that have already been approved and signed,” said Timothy Ballo, Earthjustice attorney. “When a broad cross-section of American families and businesses stand to benefit from a newly approved regulation, we usually don’t have to step in to ensure that regulation gets published in the Federal Register, but these are strange times. Publication is the last step in a very long public process for these standards, and it’s past time that we reap the financial and environmental benefits.”  

"By failing to publish these energy efficiency standards, the Trump administration is undermining common-sense steps to clean up our air and save working families money,” said Marta Darby, Sierra Club associate attorney.

“It's very disconcerting and unfair to consumers that these five rules have been held up by the administration,” said Mel Hall-Crawford, Director of Energy Programs at Consumer Federation of America. “The process has been completed. The rules need to be 'freed' so consumers and businesses can reap the economic benefits.”

“Every family and every business can be part of the climate change solution by using more energy-efficient appliances,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “However, the Department of Energy is blocking common-sense energy efficiency standards. This is absurd. The Trump Administration should stop stalling and start following the law."

NRDC and Earthjustice–representing the Sierra Club and the Consumer Federation of America–sent a letter on April 3 threatening to sue the Department of Energy (DOE) if it did not release the energy efficiency standards by publishing them in the Federal Register within 60 days. DOE has not published the standards and the groups filed suit today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

A separate state coalition lawsuit filed today was led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Joining them are Bob Ferguson, Washington State Attorney General; Janet T. Mills, Maine Attorney General; George Jepsen, Connecticut Attorney General; Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General; T.J. Donovan, Vermont Attorney General; Ellen F. Rosenblum, Oregon Attorney General; Brian E. Frosh, Maryland Attorney General; Maura Healey, Massachusetts Attorney General, and Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania Attorney General. The City of New York is also a Plaintiff in the lawsuit. The same entities had filed a notice of intent to sue on April 3.

Background Information 

The five efficiency standards were finalized and signed in December 2016 but not immediately published in the Federal Register as DOE rules require a 45-day “error correction” period to address any minor typographic or computational errors. That “error correction” period ended in early 2017, but the signed rules have yet to be published to make them effective, despite specific legal requirements to do so, the groups say.

Together, the five standards would produce more than $11 billion in consumer savings while avoiding 25 million metric tons of climate pollution over 30 years. No party requested any error corrections for four of the five standards. While several stakeholders requested error corrections for the commercial package boiler standard, DOE still has a legal duty to publish a corrected standard within a set time period if the DOE finds that the claimed errors are legitimate.

At about the same time as the Notice of Intent to Sue was sent, the same groups sued DOE for delaying the effective date for energy efficiency standards for ceiling fans, which are found in 80 million American homes. The standard, which will cut the energy use of new fans by more than 25 percent beginning in 2019, was finalized by the DOE last year but the Trump administration delayed its effective date until September 2017, with no opportunity for public notice or comment. Earlier this month, DOE finally said it would let the standard go forward in September 2017, without further delay.

By law, the DOE is charged with establishing and periodically updating energy efficiency standards for dozens of household and commercial products. The enabling statute was signed into law by President Reagan in 1987 and strengthened under President George W. Bush. The program is supported by consumer, low-income and environmental advocates as well as by states and utilities, and has a long history of manufacturer participation and support. Standards completed through 2016 are expected to cumulatively save consumers more than $1 trillion on their utility bills by 2020 and more than $2 trillion by 2030. Standards help cut carbon pollution from power plants, too – more than 3 billion tons of carbon emissions have been avoided since the program began.

The five stalled energy efficiency standards

Portable Air Conditioners: Approximately 1 million portable air conditioners—standalone, moveable cooling units that are not permanently installed in walls and windows—are sold annually. This would be the first energy efficiency standard for these historically energy-guzzling appliances, reducing energy use by about 20 percent and saving customers an average of $125 over the life of the air conditioner.  

Uninterruptible Power Supplies: This is the first efficiency standard for these battery backup systems, which are used to keep equipment running when the power goes out and are found in equipment like computers and other electronic devices. There are about 40 million uninterruptible power supplies in use today, with about 8 million shipped annually. The standard will cut their electricity consumption by 15 percent and collectively save consumers and businesses up to $3 billion on their electricity bills over the next 30 years of sales.

Air Compressors: This is the first national standard for air compressors, which are found in commercial and industrial products like robots used for manufacturing, large paint sprayers, and the devices to inflate a car’s tires at a gas station. Businesses upgrading to new equipment will see a payback through reduced energy costs in 2.5 to 5 years, and new standards will generate up to $45 million in utility bill savings each year.  

Walk-In Coolers and Freezers: The standard—which covers the refrigeration systems found in every supermarket, convenience store, and restaurant—was set through a negotiation between advocates, manufacturers, and the DOE. It adds to a 2014 rule that established separate standards for doors and panels of these systems. Taken together, the standards will save owners of walk-in refrigeration systems up to $3,300 over the life of the equipment.  

Commercial Packaged Boilers: More than 25 percent of the nation’s commercial floor space is heated by packaged boilers and the new standard will save business customers between $200 and $36,000, depending on the type of boiler.

Lauren Urbanek has posted a blog with more details:

Legal Documents 

The legal document submitted by NRDC, Earthjustice and other environmental and consumer advocacy organizations are available here:

(Notice of intent to sue)

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 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.

Earthjustice, the nation’s premier nonprofit environmental law organization, wields the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change.

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters nationwide. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and litigation. For more information, visit

The Consumer Federation of America is an association of more than 250 non-profit consumer groups that, since 1968, has sought to advance the consumer interest through research, education, and advocacy.

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