Fifteen AGs Call on Energy Department to Drop “Unlawful” Changes to Energy Conservation Program

The energy conservation program is a proven and effective program resulting in trillions of dollars in cost savings for consumers.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 6, 2019
Contact: Christopher Gray
Christopher.Gray@nyu.edu

Washington, D.C. — A multi-state coalition of 15 state attorneys general led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra submitted comments today calling on the Energy Department to abandon its proposal altering the agency’s process for setting new energy efficiency standards. The Trump administration’s proposed rule would make it more difficult for federal regulators to set more ambitious standards for a wide range of products covered under the Energy Conservation Program for Consumer Products.
 
“Energy efficiency standards are now the rule, not the exception in America. That’s because they are good for the environment and good for consumers,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The Department of Energy’s plan to revise the Process Rule will create unnecessary roadblocks to cost savings for everyday Americans. We urge DOE to withdraw this feeble proposal that caters to the old way of doing business over the needs of American families.” 
 
In their comment letter, the attorneys general questioned the need for updating the agency’s current review process and noted that the Congressionally-mandated Energy Conservation Program is on track to save consumers $2 trillion dollars in energy costs by 2030. The Energy Conservation Program has had a significant impact in lowering dangerous climate pollution, and the proposed rule would limit these gains by contravening Congress’s intent of steadily increasing the number of products covered by energy efficiency standards.
 
The coalition noted that, if finalized, the rule adds administrative barriers that would prevent the Energy Department from meeting statutory deadlines established by Congress for updating existing standards. The AGs also raised concerns regarding the Trump administration’s proposal to defer to industrial standards over the Energy Department’s own independent analysis.
 
Finally, the coalition objected to the 10 percent threshold that the proposed rule would establish for setting new standards – an arbitrary limit that is not supported by the law. The Energy Policy and Conservation Act only authorizes the Energy Department to weigh the added purchase cost created by new energy efficiency standards against the value of energy savings during the first year of a product’s lifecycle to determine if a more ambitious standard is economically justified.
 
“Instead of improving the regulatory process, this proposed rule has been designed to prevent federal regulators from meeting their legal obligations to set ambitious energy efficiency standards under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act,” said David J. HayesExecutive Director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center. “The Energy Department has already missed more than 16 deadlines to finalize new energy efficiency standards that will save consumers millions and keep harmful climate pollution out of the atmosphere. State attorneys general are demanding that the Trump administration follow the law instead of proposing ‘reforms’ designed to undermine it.”

In addition to California, attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Washington, D.C. also joined the multi-state coalition.

BACKGROUND

The Energy Conservation Program was established by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975, and it covers a range of products that are collectively responsible for a majority of energy use in residential, commercial and industrial buildings. Under the Act, the Energy Department must amend its energy efficiency standards every six years unless doing so would fail to result in significant energy savings, or if updating current standards would be technologically infeasible, or if the increased energy efficiency created by stronger standards would not be cost effective over the life-cycle of a product. 
 
To meet its statutory obligations under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) finalized the “Procedures, Interpretations, and Policies for Consideration of New or Revised Energy Conservation Standards for Consumer Products (the “Process Rule”) in 1996 to provide regulatory flexibility and improve stakeholder engagement as it sets new energy efficiency standards.

ABOUT THE STATE ENERGY & ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT CENTER
The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center is a non-partisan Center at the NYU School of Law that is dedicated to working with state attorneys general to protect and advance clean energy, climate change, and environmental values and protections. It was launched in August 2017 with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies. For more information, visit our website.