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Environment & Energy Report

Environmentalists, States Sue Trump Over Lightbulb Standards (1)

Nov. 4, 2019, 9:01 PMUpdated: Nov. 4, 2019, 9:26 PM

Environmental groups are heading to court to challenge the Trump administration’s rollback of lightbulb efficiency standards.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Environment America, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group filed suit Nov. 4 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, taking aim at an Energy Department rule that sidelined Obama-era requirements for commonly used lights.

A coalition of states led by New York Attorney General Letitia James and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra also sued.

“The Trump administration’s not-so-bright idea to rollback light bulb energy efficiency standards is an obvious attempt to line the pockets of energy executives while simultaneously increasing pollution and raising energy bills for consumers,” James said in a statement.

The administration’s September regulation eliminated a requirement that candle- and globe-shaped bulbs, and others used in track lighting and decorative fixtures, meet efficiency measures starting in 2020.

The Obama administration had expanded the standards set for traditional incandescent bulbs to include additional varieties—a move the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimated would save consumers billions of dollars and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 540 million metric tons by 2030.

But Trump officials reversed course, saying the Obama-era expansion exceeded the Energy Department’s authority.

Act Violated, Groups Say

The environmental groups filing suit say the Trump administration violated the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975, which includes an “anti-backsliding” provision that bars the Energy Department from weakening efficiency measures.

The agency says its decision doesn’t amount to backsliding because the 2020 standards hadn’t yet taken effect, and because it merely changed the scope of bulbs subject to the requirements.

“The 2020 light bulb efficiency standards are a straightforward, cost-effective way to reduce our carbon footprint,” Earthjustice attorney Tim Ballo, who represents the challengers, said in a statement. “It’s crucial that we keep these standards in place.”

The state coalition includes New York, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, plus the District of Columbia and New York City.

The Energy Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The cases are New York v. Dept. of Energy, 2d Cir., 11/4/19 and Natural Res. Def. Council v. Dept. of Energy, 2d Cir., 11/4/19, docket numbers not available.

(Adds states' lawsuit in third and fourth paragraphs and case citations.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at egilmer@bloombergenvironment.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergenvironment.com; Renee Schoof at rschoof@bloombergenvironment.com

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