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Court Finds DOE Illegally Delayed Four Mandatory Energy Efficiency Standards

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled on 15 February that the U.S. Department of Energy illegally delayed the implementation of separate mandatory energy efficiency standards for portable air conditioners, uninterruptible power supplies (the battery backup systems used to keep computers and other electronic devices running when the power goes out), air compressors used in a variety of commercial and industrial applications, and packaged boilers that heat up one-fourth of the commercial space in the United Sates. The court has ordered the DOE to publish these standards by 15 March.

The DOE adopted the aforementioned mandatory energy conservation standards in December 2016. They were posted on the agency’s website in order to give the public a 45-day window to review them for errors but they are yet to be published in the Federal Register more than a year after the conclusion of the error-correction process. The DOE has not provided an explanation for this delay, other than a statement at oral argument by counsel that the agency is “still considering” the four standards.

The court states that the DOE’s error correction rule creates a clear-cut duty for the agency to publish an energy standard in the Federal Register at the end of the error-correcting process. Whether or not an error is identified during the process, the text of the rule makes clear that the DOE must publish any standard that has gone through the process. It states the DOE will submit the standard for publication in all scenarios: when it receives a request for error correction but declines to make the correction, when it receives a request for error correction and decides to make the correction, and when it receives no request for error correction at all. During adoption of the error correction rule, the DOE confirmed that energy standards are automatically published after the error-correction process is complete.

According to the Natural Resources Defence Council, which figured as one of the plaintiffs in this lawsuit, the Trump administration’s failure to implement these standards has cost Americans US$8 billion in higher energy bills and created uncertainty for U.S. manufacturers. The original complaint also included the energy efficiency standard for walk-in coolers and freezers but a rule implementing that standard has since been published in the Federal Register.

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