Senators Urge Department of Energy to Uphold Energy Efficiency Standards

Senators Urge Department of Energy to Uphold Energy Efficiency Standards

DOE Proposed Energy Efficiency Rule Change Will Hike Costs for Consumers, Worsen Air Quality, Accelerate Climate Chaos

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley led a group of 14 Senators today in pressing U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rick Perry to reverse course on proposed rule changes that would alter classifications of lightbulbs, effectively rolling back energy efficiency standards and leaving families with higher bills to pay and worse air quality.

Existing law “bars DOE from reducing the energy efficiency required of a covered product,” the Senators wrote. “Americans deserve common-sense regulations that save them money and are in line with Congressional mandates.”

“Aside from the legal arguments against this proposal, the Appliance Standards Awareness Project and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy call attention to the fact that this rollback will cost Americans an additional $12 billion in energy costs per year,” the Senators continued. “The potential lost annual electricity savings roughly equal that generated by 25 large power plants and carbon dioxide emissions would increase by 34 million tons.”

DOE’s proposed rule change would withdraw the definitions of “general service lamp” (GSL), which were established in 2017 to expand the number of commonly-used lightbulbs subject to higher energy efficiency standards. The loosening of these standards would violate common-sense requirements for DOE to reduce dependence on foreign energy and improve American energy security.

In addition to raising significant legal concerns, this giveaway to energy corporations would result in monumental economic and environmental damage, making communities less prosperous and less safe. The energy efficiency rollback would raise household energy costs by $100 and increase carbon dioxide emissions by 34 million tons per year – an amount equivalent to the emissions currently generated by energy usage of all households in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Communities across the country, including in Oregon, are already suffering from the dire consequences of climate chaos.

The Senators added their comments to the over 15,000 public comments received by the DOE on this proposed rule, the vast majority in opposition to the proposed rollback of standards.

In addition to Senator Merkley the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Van Hollen (D-MD), Shaheen (D-NH), Harris (D-CA), Blumenthal (D-CT), Wyden (D-OR), Cardin (D-MD), Warren (D-MA), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Udall (D-NM), Smith (D-MN), Booker (D-NJ), Hassan (D-NH), Hirono (D-HI), and Markey (D-MA).

The full text of the letter is available here, and is available below.

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Dear Secretary Perry:

On February 11, 2019 the Department of Energy (DOE) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR) that would withdraw the definitions of “general service lamp” (GSL) and related terms established in the January 19, 2017 final rules. The 2017 rule expanded the definition of GSL lightbulbs to include additional commonly used lamps. The effect of this expansion of the definition of GSLs allowed these lamps to be regulated under the same minimum energy efficiency standard as other GSLs. For reasons both legal and economic, we strongly urge the DOE not to finalize this NOPR and to allow the rules to stand as issued in 2017.

We take issue with the DOE’s assertion that the lamps the NOPR would withdraw from the definition are different than the GSLs which the DOE will continue to regulate. Reflector, round globe, candelabra, and other lightbulbs under review in this NOPR are used in general service lighting applications and represent around half of the conventional lightbulbs in use in the U.S., numbering in the billions. Indeed, we see this action to revoke the definitions as an attempt to circumvent the will of the Congress that does not pass legal muster.

The most glaring legal problem with the NOPR is that it would violate the “anti-backsliding” provision of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) of 1975, as amended. The provision bars DOE from reducing the energy efficiency required of a covered product.  A rule that withdraws most types of light bulbs from the coverage of a standard reduces the energy efficiency required of those exempted lamps.  The NOPR would thwart the forward progress on energy efficiency that Congress sought to ensure when it enacted the anti-backsliding provision.

Aside from the legal arguments against this proposal, the Appliance Standards Awareness Project and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy call attention to the fact that this rollback will cost Americans an additional $12 billion in energy costs per year. The potential lost annual electricity savings roughly equal that generated by 25 large power plants and carbon dioxide emissions would increase by 34 million tons. In addition, there are efficient models of all of these lamps available on the market, and therefore this regulation would not be onerous to consumers.

For the above-identified reasons, we believe this NOPR would violate Congressional intent and the rule of law, in addition to inflicting economic harm on American consumers. Americans deserve common-sense regulations that save them money and are in line with Congressional mandates. Thus, we respectfully urge the DOE to withdraw this proposed rule.

 

Sincerely,