Attorney General James Helps Secure New Federal Energy Standards for American Families

New Standards Will Save Billions of Dollars for Families Nationwide and Help Protect the Planet

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced an agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) committing DOE to a new timetable for updating energy efficiency standards for 20 categories of common consumer products and commercial equipment. The impacted products and equipment range from residential furnaces to laundry machines to electric motors. According to experts’ estimates, updated standards for these products could provide more than $600 billion in total utility bill savings to American families by 2050 and avoid more than 90 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually by 2040.

Attorney General James is leading a coalition of 17 states, the District of Columbia, and the City of New York in today’s agreement, which resolves a complaint the coalition filed against DOE in 2020. The complaint alleged DOE failed to comply with deadlines for updating energy efficiency standards for a range of product categories set by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA).

“Increasing energy efficiency is widely recognized as one of the best ways we can cut pollution, fight climate change, and cut costs for families,” said Attorney General James. “Given today’s increasing energy prices and the impacts of the climate crisis, we must prioritize common-sense actions that will help hardworking Americans save money and reduce harmful emissions. My office will always fight to protect the people and the planet.”

The DOE’s energy efficiency standards currently cover more than 60 product categories. Nationwide, these products together use about 90 percent of the total amount of energy used in homes, 60 percent of the total amount energy used in commercial buildings, and 30 percent of the total amount of energy used in industrial facilities.

The EPCA requires DOE to periodically review and revise these efficiency standards to ensure they are set at the maximum, technically feasible and cost-effective efficiency level in order to save energy and reduce consumer and business utility costs. In 2020, Attorney General James and the coalition filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York claiming DOE had missed EPCA deadlines for review and revision of efficiency standards for multiple product categories. In the filing, Attorney General James and the coalition alleged that in failing to meet deadlines, DOE deprived American families of the benefits of lower energy bills, a more reliable electricity grid, and reduced emissions of dangerous air pollutants that contribute to climate change and harm public health.

Joining Attorney General James in today’s agreement are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, as well as the City of New York.

“This settlement is a triumph for consumers and the environment,” said Joe Vukovich, energy efficiency advocate, Natural Resources Defense Council. “It will jumpstart DOE review of efficiency standards poised to save $650 billion in utility bills and avoid the release of, at least, nearly a billion metric tons of climate-warming carbon pollution by 2050.” 

“The technology exists to make consumer products and commercial equipment incredibly energy efficient, and it is the responsibility of DOE to hold manufacturers accountable to meeting the highest possible standards,” said Jessica Tritsch, building electrification campaign director, Sierra Club. “This settlement will help us meet climate goals but also help American families save money on their energy bills and create sustainable manufacturing jobs for the future. The strongest possible energy efficiency standards will also ensure Americans keep their lights on and their heat or air conditioning on when the weather turns extreme by not overtaxing our electrical system. After all, heat waves and strong storms are only getting more common in the face of climate change — a crisis we must do everything we can to address with all the tools we have at our disposal.” 

“This agreement is essential for catching up on missed deadlines as quickly as possible in order for the incredible consumer, economic, public health, and environmental benefits of updated standards to be realized,” said Richard Eckman, energy advocate, Consumer Federation of America. “Now more than ever, consumers can use the additional pocketbook savings that updated efficiency standards will provide in the billions annually thanks to the increased energy efficiency of common household appliances. The agreement is also crucial in order to prevent millions of metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change from being emitted. We’re looking forward to working with DOE in moving forward with updates to appliance efficiency standards.”

“This agreement will conserve energy and save consumers money when they use everyday appliances,” said Howard Crystal, legal director, Center for Biological Diversity’s Energy Justice Program. “Energy efficiency is critical to addressing the climate emergency and ensuring a livable planet, even if it doesn’t get as much attention as other efforts. We’re pleased the department will finally move forward with these commonsense standards.”

“We applaud this settlement, which will save huge amounts of energy and keep money in the pockets of consumers across America, including the 85,000 low-income public housing tenants Mass Union represents,” said Jack Cooper, executive director, Massachusetts Union of Public Housing Tenants.

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Lisa S. Kwong and Timothy Hoffman, and Environmental Scientist Linda M. Wilson of the Environmental Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Senior Counsel for Air Pollution and Climate Change Litigation Michael J. Myers and Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic. The Environmental Protection Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.