By Bob Egelko
California, 10 other states and New York City sued the Trump administration in San Francisco on Tuesday for halting action on new federal energy-efficiency standards for portable air conditioners, building heaters and other appliances, saying the delays are illegal and are harming consumers and the environment.
Environmental and consumer groups filed a similar suit in the same federal court.
The proposed rules were issued by the Obama administration's Energy Department in December after years of review and were supposed to take effect by mid-March, the states said in their lawsuit. They said Energy Secretary Rick Perry's failure to publish the rules, which would allow them to be enforced, violates federal environmental and regulatory laws.
The rules, if implemented, would reduce planet-heating carbon dioxide emissions by more than 26 million metric tons per year -- the equivalent of taking nearly 5.5 million cars off the road -- and would save U.S. energy users $24 billion over 30 years, the states said.
"Every family and every business can be part of the climate-change solution by using more energy-efficient appliances," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. "However, the Department of Energy is blocking common-sense energy efficiency standards. ... The Trump administration should stop stalling and start following the law."
The other suit, challenging the same delays, was filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Consumer Federation of America.
The Energy Department did not respond to a request for comment.
The case may test the reach of President Trump's Jan. 30 executive order requiring federal agencies to repeal two existing regulations for every new rule they propose. Earlier, Trump's chief of staff, Reince Priebus, had ordered most agencies to put a 60-day hold on regulations proposed by the Obama administration to allow new appointees to review them, a process hindered by Trump's slow pace in making appointments.
At issue are conservation standards for floor-standing portable air conditioners, commercial boilers that heat office and apartment buildings, walk-in coolers and freezers used by markets and restaurants, air compressors that power various tools, and battery chargers that provide backup power supplies for electronic products.
Laws passed by Congress between 1978 and 2007 require the Energy Department to set energy-saving standards for certain categories of appliances and to update them every six years, the lawsuits said. They said the department last updated its standards for commercial boilers in 2009 and for some types of walk-in coolers and freezers in 2014 but has no current standards for the other three products.
If the Energy Department wanted to change the rules proposed by the Obama administration, it could propose new rules and submit them for public comment, the suits said. The department has not done so.
The other states filing suit were Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington.
The advocacy groups and most of the same states sued the Trump administration last month for postponing action on new energy-saving standards for ceiling fans. The Energy Department later agreed to implement those standards in September.
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