NRDC & Others Launch Legal Actions Against Trump Administration over Six Delayed Energy Efficiency Standards

Lawsuit Filed Over Ceiling Fans, Intent to Sue Notice Filed on Five Others

NEW YORK (April 3, 2017) —The Natural Resources Defense Council and other public interest groups have launched legal challenges against the U.S. Department of Energy for illegally stalling six energy efficiency standards that could save consumers as much as $23 billion on their energy bills, NRDC announced today.

“These delays are unacceptable, unnecessary, and illegal,” said Kit Kennedy, director of NRDC’s Energy and Transportation Program. “The Trump administration needs to do its job and follow the law on energy efficiency. These inexplicable delays are hurting the pocketbooks of America’s families and businesses, and creating uncertainty for manufacturers.”

In a lawsuit filed Friday evening, NRDC and its allies focused on the delayed energy efficiency standards for ceiling fans, which are found in 80 million American homes. A notice of intent to sue was filed today 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, 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. 

“The Department of Energy last year signed off on all six standards and found them to be cost-effective with major benefits for consumers and the environment after going through a rigorous and legally required rulemaking process with ample opportunity for stakeholder participation” Kennedy said. “Energy efficiency standards save energy, reduce energy bills and pollution, and create good-paying jobs. The Trump administration should be embracing, not hampering the efficiency standards program, which dates back to President Reagan and has enjoyed broad bipartisan support.”

Groups joining NRDC in the lawsuit are the Sierra Club and the Consumer Federation of America (both represented by Earthjustice), and the Texas Ratepayers Organization to Save Energy (represented by the National Consumer Law Center). In addition, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the states of Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and the City of New York are separately challenging the delays. Attorneys for NRDC, Sierra Club, and the Consumer Federation of America signed the notice letter; the state coalition also sent a notice letter, joined by the attorney general of Maryland.

About 80 million American households have at least one ceiling fan, and approximately 20 million new ceiling fans are shipped annually in the United States. The new standard will cut the energy use of new fans by more than 25 percent, saving consumers up to $12 billion over the next 30 years and enough electricity to power 17 million U.S. households for a year. It 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. The lawsuit filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York expresses concern that the DOE will attempt to suspend the efficiency standard indefinitely or roll it back in violation of law.

The other five efficiency standards were announced in December but not published in the Federal Register as official rules to allow a 45-day “error correction” period to address any specific drafting error technical issues. That period has ended 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 one 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 that standard with any revisions that are technically warranted and meet the required legal standard.

By law, the Department of Energy is charged with establishing and periodically updating energy efficiency standards for dozens of household and commercial products. The 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.

Here is some additional information about the five standards that have not been officially published:

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 energy 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 in the cases 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 submitted by NRDC and other environmental and consumer advocacy organizations are available here:


(Notice of intent to sue)

The legal documents submitted by the state attorney general coalition will be available here:

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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.

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