Energy & Environment

Court rules Energy Dept. must implement Obama efficiency rules

The Trump administration must carry out the implementation of four energy efficiency regulations that it has delayed for more than a year, a federal court ruled Thursday.

The Department of Energy (DOE) wrote the rules and made them public in December 2016, under the Obama administration.

But when President Trump took office Jan. 20, 2017, his administration took advantage of a 45-day window for error corrections to review the rules and potentially scuttle them. The DOE still has not published the rules in the Federal Register, the final step to implement them.


“This failure is a violation of the department’s duties under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act,” Judge Vince Chhabria, who former President Obama nominated to the federal District Court for the Northern District of California, wrote in the Thursday ruling.

“Summary judgment is therefore granted to the plaintiffs on this claim, and the department is ordered to publish the standards within 28 days of this ruling.”

The ruling stands as a setback in the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to delay, weaken or undo major parts of Obama’s aggressive environmental agenda.

Since Trump took office, other judges have ruled against the administration on lawsuits stemming from methane standards for oil and natural gas drilling and royalty standards for fossil fuels on federal land.

At issue in the Thursday case are rules setting energy efficiency standards for portable air conditioners, air compressors, commercial packaged boilers and uninterruptible power supplies.

After the Trump administration’s delay, environmentalists led by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Democratic states led by California and New York sued.

Chhabria said the DOE’s Error Correction Rule mandates that officials publish the regulations in the Federal Register after they fix mistakes.

“The text of the Error Correction Rule creates a clear-cut duty for the department to publish an energy standard in the Federal Register at the end of the error-correction process,” the judge wrote.

“Whether or not an error is identified during the process, the text of the rule makes clear that the department must publish any standard that has gone through the process.”

Federal attorneys told the judge last month that the DOE was “still considering” the four efficiency rules.

DOE spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said the agency is reviewing the decision and considering its next steps.

The challengers in the case cheered the ruling.

“Today’s ruling means that the Trump Administration may no longer block common-sense energy efficiency standards. This is a tremendous victory for the American people and for our planet,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D).

“The decision sends an unmistakable message that the Trump administration can’t flout the law,” said Kit Kennedy, head of the climate and clean energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“The Trump administration’s baffling decision to block the final procedural step could have cost Americans $8 billion in higher energy bills and created uncertainty for U.S. manufacturers.”

Tags Department of Energy Donald Trump energy efficiency Xavier Becerra

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video