U.S. PIRG, Environment America among groups filing suit to protect energy efficiency standards

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New Energy Department rule would lead to more wasteful household appliances

U.S. PIRG and Environment America

SAN FRANCISCO — A coalition of leading public interest organizations including Environment America and U.S. PIRG filed a petition for review today, challenging a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) rule that governs the setting of efficiency standards for consumer appliances and equipment. The changes to the so-called “Process Rule,” which DOE finalized in January, are expected to slow down, or stop altogether, federal efforts to make appliances and equipment more energy efficient. 

“Cutting energy waste is a critical part of building a future powered by clean energy,” said Johanna Neumann, senior director of Environment America’s 100% Renewable Energy campaign. “Given the environmental and consumer benefits, the federal government should cut energy waste instead of perpetuating it.” 

The efficiency standards program, created by President Ronald Reagan in 1987, sets common sense benchmarks for things ranging from refrigerators to water heaters and air conditioners. According to the Department of Energy’s own calculations, efficiency standards have prevented 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide pollution from entering the atmosphere, equivalent to the annual emissions from 631 million cars—which equates to all the cars in the United States, China, Brazil, and France combined.

In addition to preventing emissions that harm our health and threaten our climate, the efficiency standards program also delivers significant financial savings for consumers. Since the program’s inception, American consumers and businesses have saved around $2 trillion on their utility bills, a savings of around $500 per household, per year. Unfortunately, the new rule threatens future money- and energy-saving efficiency upgrades. The new Process Rule adds unnecessary steps to the process of making appliances and equipment more efficient, adds arbitrary requirements before the updating process can start, and lets the industry itself design the testing procedures. 

“DOE’s action violates federal law on several fronts,” said Mike Landis, Environment America and U.S. PIRG’s attorney in the litigation. “We look forward to asking the court to overturn this unlawful rule.”

The petition for review was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The other petitioners in the lawsuit are Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Consumer Federation of America, and Massachusetts Union of Public Housing Tenants. Just hours earlier, a coalition of state attorneys general, led by California, filed a parallel lawsuit.