States Sue DOE to Compel Energy Efficiency Standard Updates

Plaintiffs, the States of New York, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the People of the State of Michigan, the District of Columbia, and the City of New York have filed suit in the Southern District of New York against the United States Department of Energy (DOE) and its secretary, Dan Brouillette. The Monday-filed declaratory and injunctive relief action claims that the DOE failed to meet statutory deadlines for reviewing and strengthening energy efficiency standards pursuant to the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA).

The complaint explains that the EPCA “authorizes national energy conservation standards for a variety of consumer and commercial products and industrial equipment.” The law also reportedly establishes minimum energy efficiency standards for certain products and mandates that the DOE set forth new or amended standards through rulemaking. Specifically, the complaint states that “[t]o ensure that standards are set at the maximum efficiency level that is technologically feasible and economically justified, EPCA mandates that DOE meet certain deadlines for periodic review and revision of those standards.”

Presently, EPCA standards cover more than 60 categories of residential and commercial products and equipment, the complaint states. Allegedly, covered products use about 90% of all energy consumed in U.S. homes, about 60% of that used in commercial buildings, and 30% of that used in national industries.

Notwithstanding Congress’ explicit instructions that the DOE “regularly evaluate existing efficiency standards to determine whether such standards can be made stronger,” the complaint claims that the DOE has missed deadlines for 25 consumer and commercial/industrial product categories. This failure allegedly “deprives plaintiffs, their residents and their businesses of the many benefits updated standards would provide, including conservation of natural resources, lower energy bills, a more reliable electricity grid, and reduced emissions of harmful air pollutants that contribute to climate change and threaten public health.”

Under the EPCA’s citizen suit provision, the plaintiffs ask that the court issue a declaratory judgment stating that the DOE has failed to meet EPCA deadlines, issue a permanent injunction requiring the DOE to comply with statutory deadlines and other requirements pursuant to “an expeditious schedule” set forth and enforced by the court.