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11 States Sue Department of Energy over Inaction on Efficiency Standards

Eleven states, led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and including the city of New York, a Pennsylvania regulator, and three nonprofit groups, have jointly filed suit in federal court to sue the Department of Energy (DOE). The lawsuit seeks to compel implementation of new and updated energy efficiency standards for air compressors, commercial boilers, portable air conditioners, power supplies, and walk-in coolers and freezers.

The rules subject to the lawsuit were finalized in 2016. The coalition argues that federal law required the rules to go effect in March 2017, after the mandatory 45-day error correction review had passed. But in late January, the White House directed agency heads to impose a freeze on new regulations until they had an opportunity to review them, and newly appointed DOE Secretary Rick Perry left the status of the rules in limbo.

According to estimates, the new energy efficiency standards would collectively save U.S. consumers between $11 to $12 billion on electricity bills annually, and would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 159 million tons over 30 years.

In the new environment where the federal government is taking an increasingly deregulatory stance, states, municipalities, and NGOs may become increasingly willing to take legal action to compel rulemaking. In April, the same coalition (less Maryland) brought suit in New York circuit court to compel the DOE to implement ceiling fan efficiency standards, but the DOE relented before the case was heard. DOE confirmed the ceiling fan regulations will go into effect in September 2017.

© 2020 Keller and Heckman LLP


About this Author

Sheila Millar, Keller Heckman, advertising lawyer, privacy attorney

Sheila A. Millar counsels corporate and association clients on advertising, privacy, product safety, and other public policy and regulatory compliance issues.

Ms. Millar advises clients on an array of advertising and marketing issues.  She represents clients in legislative, rulemaking and self-regulatory actions, advises on claims, and assists in developing and evaluating substantiation for claims. She also has extensive experience in privacy, data security and cybersecurity matters.  She helps clients develop website and app privacy policies,...

Jean-Cyril Walker, Keller Heckman, Environmental Compliance Lawyer, Renewable Fuel Standards Attorney

Jean-Cyril Walker joined Keller and Heckman in 2000. He advises clients on a wide range of environmental matters, including compliance with U.S. requirements governing the safe management and disposal of chemical and hazardous substances. Mr. Walker counsels fuel industry clients on federal and state requirements governing the development and distribution of fuels and fuel additives, including the renewable fuel standards (RFS and RFS2), and matters involving renewable fuel identification number (RIN) transactions. Mr. Walker regularly advises industry and trade association clients on matters concerning the regulation of hazardous air pollutants under the federal Clean Air Act (CAA) and state and local air pollution statutes. In this regard, Mr. Walker has advised clients on compliance with numerous MACT standards, including those governing pharmaceutical production, chemical manufacturing, can and other surface coatings, and other industrial operations. Mr. Walker has extensive experience with CARB regulations, and in particular, on complying with regulations governing emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in adhesives, paints, and other industrial and consumer products.