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US Energy Department publishes long-delayed efficiency standards

The U.S. Energy Department published energy conservation standards on portable air conditioners, commercial packaged boilers and uninterruptible power supplies such as battery chargers. The standards had been delayed under the Trump administration for more than two years.

The DOE published the standards in the Federal Register on Jan. 10 after courts ruled the agency could not put off doing so any longer. The standards take effect March 10, and the deadline to comply with the standards is Jan. 10, 2022, for interruptible power supplies; Jan. 10, 2023, for commercial packaged boilers; and Jan. 10, 2025, for portable air conditioners.

The DOE posted the standards for public review on its website in December 2016 but then did not publish them in the Federal Register under the Trump administration. Of the standards, only one technical error was identified for the uninterruptible power supplies standard. The DOE, at the time, estimated that over a 30-year period, the standards will result in 99 million metric tons of reduced carbon dioxide emissions and save consumers and businesses $8.4 billion.

Environmental organizations, states and some of their agencies sued the DOE to publish the standards.

Ordinarily, agencies may withdraw a proposed or final rule before it has been published in the Federal Register, which is the final step needed for a rule to take effect. But a judge at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in February 2018 held that the DOE relinquished that discretion to withhold publication of efficiency standards when it previously created a process under an "error-correction rule" that allowed it to more easily fix typographical, calculation or numbering mistakes in energy conservation standards. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld that finding in October 2019.