This article was originally published by Architectural Lighting.

Light bulb evolution (from left to right): A19 filament, compact fluorescent, A19 LED replacement
Adobe Stock Light bulb evolution (from left to right): A19 filament, compact fluorescent, A19 LED replacement

In a press release issued Aug. 8, 2017, The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) announced that it has, “filed a declaratory judgment action with the United States District Court in Sacramento, California, asking the court to declare state regulations preempted as provided in the Constitution and federal energy conservation law.”

This is the latest development in a dispute between NEMA and the California Energy Commission (CEC) that started last January when the CEC approved Title 20 appliance efficiency regulations governing general service LED lamps. The action put in motion the first in-state energy-efficiency standards for LED lamps. I outlined the issue in my Mar/Apr 2016 Comment, “A Regulatory Affair.” Not only did the CEC move challenge whether it is a state or the federal government who has overall authority for lamp rulemakings, it also required meeting specific color rendering index metrics, which, in turn, carry with it associated energy efficiency and cost implications.

Architectural Lighting reached out to NEMA for further clarification. In an email, Tracy Cullen, NEMA’s Senior Director Communications and Marketing wrote, “For the general service lamp, the 2007 federal legislation created narrow exceptions to federal preemption of state legislation and permitted California to accelerate the effective date of federal standards for general service lamps in California. None of the California rules fit Congress’ narrow exceptions; therefore, California has acted outside the boundaries of its lawful authority. California has established different standards with unique California-only requirements, which ironically could lead to California having less efficient, more expensive light bulbs.” She went on to say, “Lighting manufacturers have invested significant resources and competed vigorously to produce high quality, affordable, more energy-efficient light bulbs over the past decade. There has been a considerable effort by manufacturers aimed at driving costs of energy-saving light bulbs down while maintaining quality and meeting consumer expectations. To facilitate that outcome, NEMA supports the market transition to more energy-efficient lighting and national standards for light bulbs rather than a patchwork of different standards from individual states.”

The issue is now in the court’s hands and Architectural Lighting will continue to monitor the situation.

Following is the full statement by NEMA President and CEO Kevin Cosgriff released on Aug. 8, 2017:

“NEMA has long supported national energy efficiency standards for certain electrical products, including light bulbs. NEMA supported congressional energy standards for light bulbs enacted in 1992, 2005, and 2007, and we supported Congress’ delegation to the Secretary of Energy to consider new national energy conservation standards for light bulbs if economically justified and technologically feasible.

A critical statutory component of the federal energy efficiency regulatory scheme is that states are prohibited from enacting their own energy conservation standards for products covered by the federal efficiency program both before and after federal energy-efficiency standards are effective. Since 1987, Congress has recognized that such state standards put an undue burden on manufacturers, who were being ‘confronted with a growing patchwork of differing state regulations that would increasingly complicate their design, production and marketing plans.

In late 2013, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) began a rulemaking to determine whether or not standards for light bulbs should be amended and whether new standards for certain unregulated light bulbs should be adopted. That rulemaking is ongoing. In the course of that rulemaking, NEMA has supported robust new national energy efficiency standards for LED light bulbs, as well as new standards for other types of light bulbs. DOE proposed standards for LED light bulbs in this rulemaking.

While that rulemaking was underway, the California Energy Commission (CEC) adopted energy efficiency standards for LED light bulbs that are different from what DOE has been considering. At the same time, CEC also proposed energy efficiency requirements for small diameter directional or reflector lamps that DOE has indicated it is regulating. This is exactly the kind of state regulation that Congress declared is not permissible.

The 2007 energy law recognized a certain narrow exception to federal preemption for California in the case of light bulbs. None of the California regulations for light bulbs fall within the ambit of the narrow exception recognized by Congress. NEMA will ask the court to issue a ruling at the earliest possible time.”

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