Consumer Groups Join Lawsuit Against the Department of Energy over Ceiling Fan Efficiency Standards

The groups say that failure to adopt cost-effective ceiling fan efficiency standards will cost consumers millions of dollars in energy savings

Consumer Groups Join Lawsuit Against the Department of Energy over Ceiling Fan Efficiency Standards
Image: Pixabay
April 4, 2017

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the Texas Ratepayers' Organization to Save Energy (Texas ROSE) joined with environmental groups last week in a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for illegal delays of energy efficiency standards affecting ceiling fans. Several states have filed a separate lawsuit on the matter.

The ceiling fan rule was formally issued and published on January 19, 2017 and was supposed to go into effect on March 20, 2017. However, the Trump Administration delayed the effective date, first, until March 21, 2017. This was followed by a second notice of delay—now until September 30, 2017.

The groups say they are joining in this lawsuit for both economic and legal reasons. They are challenging as contrary to law DOE's efforts to thwart the ceiling fan rule. They are also concerned that failure to adopt cost-effective ceiling fan efficiency will cost consumers millions of dollars in energy savings. The groups point out that efficiency standards have been proven repeatedly to save consumers money because the savings from reduced energy consumption far exceeds the cost of the technology needed to make the appliance more efficient. In this case, the groups say, the benefits are almost four times the cost with a net total value of over $12 billion dollars.

"As a matter of law and practice, the agencies issuing standards must consider all the benefits and all the costs," Mark Cooper, CFA's Director of Research said. "The public relations ploy of citing only the costs and ignoring the benefits stops when the agency issues a rule. The real facts take over and the reality is that energy efficiency standards have the unique effect of directly putting money into consumer pocketbooks."

"Energy efficiency standards like these also have a macroeconomic multiplier effect. For every dollar increase in consumer disposable income, there is an additional dollar of induced economic growth, because the multiplier of general consumer spending is much larger than the multiplier of spending on energy. If you want to grow the economy, increasing energy efficiency is one of the best ways to do so," Cooper concluded.

"Raising energy efficiency standards benefits all consumers with lower utility bills and conserves our energy resources," said Carol Biedrzycki, Executive Director of Texas Ratepayers' Organization to Save Energy. "The DOE strategy should be to move up the effective date, not delay it. More efficient ceiling fans installed in apartments and homes will do nothing but save struggling families money."

The groups maintain that the delays of the implementation of the rule violate the law. In a sense, the groups say, the facts in this case present the most explicit test of whether the new administration will obey the law—which is why it is "particularly important to reinforce the principle that rules must be written in a timely fashion and should not be needlessly delayed."

"This case represents the purest example of needless and illegal delay," said Cooper. "The rule is faithful to the statute, was written in accordance with the Administrative Procedures Act and saves consumers money. This is the perfect case to lay down the law."