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November 4, 2019
Contact: Tom Lalley

Sixteen State Attorneys General File Suit to Block Energy Department's Unlawful Rollback of Lightbulb Efficiency Standards

State AGs also submitted comments blasting a related proposal by DOE to weaken efficiency standards for certain lightbulbs.

Washington, D.C. — A coalition of 16 state attorneys general led by New York Attorney General Letitia James and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit today challenging rules finalized in September by the Trump administration that roll back federal energy efficiency standards for a wide range of commonly-used lightbulbs. By the end of the year, the new rules will exclude several types of lightbulbs that are currently in use in most American homes — nearly 3 billion bulbs and approximately half of the lightbulbs in residential use.
Also today, the AGs submitted comments opposing a related Energy Department (DOE) proposal that seeks to unlawfully avoid strengthening efficiency standards for common incandescent lightbulbs.
“The Trump Administration’s not-so-bright idea to rollback light bulb energy efficiency standards is an obvious attempt to line the pockets of energy executives while simultaneously increasing pollution and raising energy bills for consumers,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. “The United States cannot and will not be the exception to the international movement to phase out the inefficient, unnecessary, and costly use of incandescent bulbs. My office will continue to work with our partner states and municipalities to reverse this action, save New Yorkers money on electricity bills, and cut climate change emissions by reducing the coal and gas burned in power plants.”
“The Trump Administration needs to move on from old-fashioned technologies and yesterday’s way of doing business. It’s time to face the reality that American consumers deserve and demand more efficient and sustainable options,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “Today we filed this lawsuit to block the Department of Energy from pushing a foolish agenda that prioritizes out-dated, polluting technology over the needs of the people and our environment. We can’t afford to turn our back on progress.”
What the suit challenges and the comments say

  • DOE is violating the Energy Policy and Conservation Act’s (EPCA’s) anti-backsliding provision which says that DOE “may not prescribe any amended standard which increases the maximum allowable energy use . . . or decreases the required energy efficiency, of a covered product;”
  • DOE is exceeding its statutory authority under the EPCA in attempting to exempt certain lightbulb products from its energy efficiency standards. This also violates the Administrative Procedure Act as an arbitrary and capricious action;
  • DOE is ignoring the intent of Congress to transition the nation to inexpensive, efficient and widely available lighting sources;
  • The rules would significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and consumers’ energy costs;
  • DOE has not complied with requirements for agency actions under numerous laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act.

Why it’s important 
The rolled back rules that are the focus of the lawsuit were on-track to deliver significant benefits for consumers and the environment:

  • Save 80 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually nationwide;
  • At least $12 billion savings in annual electricity costs by 2025, equal to nearly $100 per household per year;
  • Cut 34 million metric tons of climate-changing carbon dioxide by 2025;
  • 19,000 tons of nitrogen oxide emissions by 2025 and;
  • 23,000 tons of sulfur dioxide emissions by 2025;

Second day stories

  • The avoided emissions from the efficiency standards being rolled back by the Trump administration.
  • The health impacts of energy efficiency programs that are being rolled back.
  • How even industry is opposed to rolling back efficiency standards.

The deep dive

Check out our page on clean energy and energy efficiency which includes background on the issue and links to recent actions.  You can also search our AG Actions page for all actions taken by state attorneys general related to energy efficiency.


About the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center
The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center (State Impact Center) is a non-partisan Center at the NYU School of Law that is dedicated to helping state attorneys general fight against regulatory rollbacks and advocate for 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