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Michigan AG Nessel Sues Department of Energy for Rollback of Energy Efficiency Standards for Lightbulbs

LANSING – Fighting back on the federal government’s rollback on energy efficiency standards, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined a coalition of 16 attorneys general last week to file a lawsuit challenging the Department of Energy’s (DOE) lightbulb efficiency final rule. The lawsuit alleges that the rollback of the energy efficiency requirements for certain lightbulbs would unlawfully delay the adoption of energy efficiency goals, undermine state and local energy policy, and increase consumer and environmental costs.

Approximately three billion – or nearly half – of all lighting fixtures and lamps in U.S. homes contain the types of bulbs affected by DOE’s rollback.

“At a time when our federal government seems hell-bent on dialing back every protection designed to ensure a safer and cleaner future for our nation, it is the role of our state attorneys general to fight back,” Nessel said. “In the face of the very real threat of climate change, we must move forward, not backward. We will fight this every step of the way.”

The lawsuit comes after the coalition submitted comments on the rollback proposal in May, asserting that DOE should maintain the stricter, environmentally sound definitions enacted by the Obama Administration in 2017, which expanded the definition of general service lamps (GSL) to include seven previously unregulated types of lightbulbs. By including those types of bulbs as GSLs, the 2017 definitions subject them to the congressionally imposed GSL minimum standard of 45 lumens per watt applicable on January 1, 2020. The rollback, made final on Sept. 5, removes those lightbulbs from the GSL efficiency, costing consumers $12 billion each year in lost electricity savings by 2025, or $100 per household per year.

By reversing the 2017 rules, the DOE is enacting a less stringent standard in violation of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. This action is arbitrary, capricious, and unlawful under the Administrative Procedure Act.

In addition to Attorney General Nessel, the coalition includes the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

Despite not being mandated to provide information on the lawsuit to the Legislature, Nessel sent a letter to the House and Senate appropriations chairs advising them of Michigan’s participation in the suit and has offered to meet with them to provide additional information on the case and the state’s legal position. 

Several of the federal lawsuits Michigan has joined since January have had favorable decisions that halt disastrous policies from taking effect, including the lawsuit challenging the Public Charge Rule which would allow the federal government to revoke an immigrant’s legal status or even deport them if they use the public benefits they’re entitled to, and a lawsuit to block the Refusal of Care Rule which would allow any health care provider to refuse necessary, and often critical, health care services that conflict with their “religious beliefs or moral convictions.”