- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco on Thursday handed clean energy advocates a major win, directing the Trump Administration to implement efficiency standards for four products that have been delayed for years.
- The standards cover portable air conditioners, uninterruptible power supplies, air compressors and commercial packaged boilers. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which sued the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to have the rules issued, expects them to save consumers $8.4 billion in utility costs over the next three decades.
- The new rules were put on hold in January 2017 as President Trump came into office, as part of a freeze on new regulations. The rules would typically have been published in the Federal Register following a 45-day review period, but DOE declined, saying they were still under consideration.
DOE lost the case initially in 2018, but appealed the judge's directive to issue the new regulations within 28 days. The appeals court affirmed that decision Thursday, saying it found the agency's arguments unpersuasive.
The decision hinges on a close reading of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, and whether the word "will" meant DOE was required to issue the regulations following a period for corrections to be identified and made.
"DOE nonetheless contends that ... the word 'will' was intended to be merely descriptive rather than prescriptive," the court wrote. "We do not think that is a plausible reading of the provision's language."
The agency is reviewing the order now, according to a DOE spokesperson.
"The court prevented an incredibly successful, and bipartisan, energy-saving program from becoming a political issue that an administration can change on a whim," Kit Kennedy, senior director of the Climate and Clean Energy Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. "Today's decision is good news for our climate future, and for the rule of law."
Under Trump, the DOE has not issued or updated any efficiency standards, and has missed more than 20 legal deadlines for reviewing standards, according to NRDC.
The group filed their suit against the agency in June 2017 along with EarthJustice, with both representing the Sierra Club, the Consumer Federation of America, and Texas Ratepayers' Organization to Save Energy. Separately, 11 states and New York City also filed challenges.
Despite the win, efficiency advocates say the fight continues. They say the Trump Administration has also challenged standards for light bulbs, and is creating loopholes for product testing.
"Rather than working to move standards forward to achieve energy and carbon savings for consumers and businesses, the Trump administration has been doing everything it can to move backwards," Lauren Urbanek, senior energy policy advocate at NRDC, wrote in a Thursday blog post on the court decision.
Urbanek says efficiency standards "have quietly saved Americans billions of dollars on energy bills over the past few decades and are projected to save $2 trillion by 2030."