NEMA, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, announced that it would continue pursuing legal action against the California Energy Commission (CEC) for over-regulating a number of electrical products.

As part of its 2002 updates to appliance efficiency regulations (Title 20), the commission has increased requirements for a number of already regulated products. Because these products—including fluorescent lamps, lamp ballasts, and electric motors—are federally regulated, and because the California-proposed efficiency levels are the same as the national standards, industry officials charge that thee would be no energy savings from the CEC action for these products. There will, however, be substantial costs to manufacturers, which will eventually be passed along to California customers.

As part of the 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 along. NEMA president Malcolm O’Hagan said that the costs to industry would be many millions but no energy savings would be obtained from the regulation.

While 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, Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association, and NEMA sued the CEC to halt implementation of the portions of Title 20 applying to these “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, 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 the litigation. The revisions, in the meantime, are back at the OAL for approval.