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AG Nessel Helps Secure New Federal Energy Standards for American Families

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel 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.

AG Nessel joins a coalition of 17 states, the District of Columbia, and the City of New York in the 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).

"Reducing the amount of pollution that is impacting Michigan’s air quality and contributing to climate change is a goal I take seriously," Nessel said. "So is protecting residents from high energy bills. Both of these objectives can be achieved by committing to new energy efficiency standards that will safeguard our environment as well as allow us to respond to climate change in a robust way. This agreement is long overdue, and I am happy to join my colleagues in welcoming new energy efficiency standards for products with the potential to harm our environment and affect our health."

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 of 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, 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, 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 a reduction of emissions of dangerous air pollutants that contribute to climate change and harm public health.

“This settlement is a triumph for consumers and the environment. 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,” said Joe Vukovich, energy efficiency advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"The technology exists to make consumer products and commercial equipment incredibly energy efficient, and it is the responsibility of the DOE to hold manufacturers accountable to meeting the highest possible standards. 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,” said Jessica Tritsch, building electrification campaign director at the Sierra Club.  

“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 at the 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 at the 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 at the Massachusetts Union of Public Housing Tenants.

Joining AG Nessel in the agreement are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, as well as the City of New York.

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