ROSSLYN, Va. — The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) has announced that it will continue pursuing legal action against the California Energy Commission (CEC) for what it says is over-regulation of electrical products.

As part of its 2002 updates to appliance efficiency regulations (Title 20), the CEC has increased requirements for a number of already regulated products. Because these products — including electric motors — are federally regulated, and because the California-proposed efficiency levels are the same as national standards, NEMA says that there would be no energy savings from the CEC action. There would, however, be significant costs to manufacturers, which would eventually be passed along to California customers, says the association.

As part of industry filings, a NEMA-member motor manufacturer declared that the capital cost of implementing the proposed motor labeling requirements would be $1.5 million to his company alone. “The costs to industry would be many millions,” stated Malcolm O’Hagan, NEMA president, “but no energy savings would be obtained from this redundant piece of regulation.”

When the California Office of Administrative Law (OAL) approved the implementation of the new Title 20, four trade associations, including the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA), and NEMA sued the CEC to halt implementation of the portions of Title 20 applying to “covered products” and “covered equipment.”

The trade associations argued that federal law expressly preempted state regulation in this area and their members would be irreparably harmed by the new regulations. On December 12, 2002, Federal District Judge William B. Shubb in Sacramento granted a preliminary injunction to the four associations.

On March 19, the CEC adopted revisions to Title 20 that, NEMA says, “while improving some labeling requirements, failed to deal with the heart of the matter pertaining to state regulation of federally regulated products.” Therefore, the trade associations are continuing with their litigation. The revisions, in the meantime, are back at the Office of Administrative Law for approval.

The additional requirements are in the form of new efficiency standards, labeling, testing, and information requirements, and a preapproval process in which products may not be sold in California unless state requirements are met to CEC satisfaction.

Publication date: 04/07/2003