Natural Resources Defense Council v. Abraham

Decision Date13 January 2004
Docket NumberNo. 01-4102.,No. 02-6139.,No. 02-4189.,No. 02-4160.,No. 01-4103.,01-4102.,01-4103.,02-4160.,02-4189.,02-6139.
Citation355 F.3d 179
PartiesNATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL, Public Utility Law Project, State of Connecticut, State of Vermont, State of Maine, State of New Jersey, State of Nevada, State of California, Consumer Federation of America & State of New York, Petitioners, v. Spencer ABRAHAM, as Secretary of the United States Department of Energy & United States Department of Energy, Respondents, and Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Institute, State of New Hampshire, Texas Ratepayers' Organization to Save Energy, Massachusetts Union of Public Housing Tenants, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, & State of Rhode Island, Intervenors.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Laura Taylor Swain, J.

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Peter H. Lehner, Assistant Attorney General, Albany, N.Y. (Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General, D. Scott Bassinson, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel), for Petitioner State of New York.

Katherine Kennedy, Natural Resources Defense Council, New York, NY, for Petitioners Natural Resources Defense Council, Public Utility Law Project and Consumer Federation of America.

Charles Harak, National Consumer Law Center, Boston, MA, for Intervenors Massachusetts Union of Public Housing Tenants

and Texas Ratepayers' Organization to Save Energy.

James T. Bradford Ramsey, General Counsel, Sharla M. Barklind, Assistant General Counsel, National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, Washington, DC, for Intervenor National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.

John A. Hodges, Washington, DC (Bruce L. McDonald, Dineen P. Wasylik, Wiley Rein & Fielding LLP; and Stephen R. Yurek, General Counsel, Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute, Arlington, VA, of counsel), for Intervenor-Respondent Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute.

Wendy H. Schwartz, Assistant United States Attorney, New York, N.Y. (James B. Comey, United States Attorney, Gideon A. Schor, Assistant United States Attorney, of counsel), for Respondents Spencer Abraham, as Secretary of the United States Department of Energy, and United States Department of Energy.

Bill Lockyer, Attorney General, Richard M. Frank, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Public Rights Division, Sacramento, CA, for Petitioner State of California.

Richard Blumenthal, Attorney General, Mark Kindall and Kelly Flint, Assistant Attorneys General, Hartford, CT, for Petitioner State of Connecticut.

William H. Sorrell, Attorney General, Erick Titrud and S. Mark Sciarrotta, Assistant Attorneys General, Montpelier, VT, for Petitioner State of Vermont.

G. Steven Rowe, Attorney General, Paul Stern, Deputy Attorney General, and Gerald D. Reid, Assistant Attorney General, Augusta, Maine, for Petitioner State of Maine.

David Samson, Attorney General, Howard Geduldig, Deputy Attorney General, Trenton, NJ, for Petitioner State of New Jersey.

Thomas F. Reilly, Attorney General, Frederick Augenstern and William L. Pardee, Assistant Attorneys General, Boston, MA, for Intervenor Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Sheldon Whitehouse, Attorney General, Tricia K. Jedele, Special Assistant Attorney General, Providence, RI, for Intervenor State of Rhode Island.

Frankie Sue Del Papa, Attorney General, Timothy Hay, Chief Deputy Attorney General, Carson City, NV, for Petitioner State of Nevada.

Phiip T. McLaughlin, Attorney General, Amy B. Mills, Attorney, Concord, NH, for Intervenor State of New Hampshire.

Sam Kazman, Ben Lieberman, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC, for Amici Competitive Enterprise Institute, Energy Market & Policy Analysis, Inc., Consumer Alert, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, National Taxpayers Union, Small Business Survival Committee, and the Seniors Coalition in Support of Respondents.

Arlen Orchard, General Counsel, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Sacramento, CA, for Amicus Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

Before OAKES and SOTOMAYOR, Circuit Judges.1

OAKES, Senior Circuit Judge.

We are called upon in this case to determine when section 325 of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act ("EPCA"), as amended by the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act ("NAECA"), took effect so as to prevent the Department of Energy from amending downward efficiency standards for certain home appliances.

The Natural Resources Defense Council ("NRDC"), the Public Utility Law Project ("PULP"), and the Consumer Federation of America ("CFA"), joined by the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont, as well as intervenors Texas Ratepayers' Organization to Save Energy, the Massachusetts Union of Public Housing Tenants, and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (hereinafter collectively "petitioners"), petition this court for relief. They challenge a series of actions taken by the Department of Energy ("DOE") following its promulgation and publication in January 2001 of efficiency standards for certain air conditioning units required under the EPCA. They do so simultaneously with their appeal, in the alternative, of the dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Laura Taylor Swain, Judge, of their suit challenging a portion of these same actions in that court.

In their consolidated petitions for relief, petitioners argue that DOE's acts of delaying, withdrawing and replacing the standards promulgated in January 2001 were improper and done in violation of section 325(o)(1) of the EPCA, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 6295(o)(1) (2003), as well as the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA") and the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"). They seek a judgment from this court accordingly. They also argue that the replacement standards are not supported by substantial evidence in the record and do not conform to mandates Congress set forth elsewhere in section 325 of the EPCA. In the alternative, they argue that the district court erroneously determined that it did not have jurisdiction to consider the propriety of DOE's acts of twice delaying the effective date of the original standards, and that we should remand so that it may do so.2

As a threshold matter, we conclude that the district court was correct in determining that subject matter jurisdiction over petitioners' challenge to DOE's two amendments of the original standards' effective date properly resides with this court. Consequently, we review all of DOE's actions here. Because we agree that DOE acted contrary to the dictates of the EPCA and, alternately, the APA, we grant petitioners' request for relief.

Background

Central to this case is the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, passed by Congress in 1975. See EPCA, Pub.L. 94-163, 1975 U.S.C.C.A.N. (89 Stat.) 871 (codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. §§ 6201-6422 (2003)). A brief review of the history of that Act and its subsequent relevant amendments is therefore crucial to understanding the context of the present action.

The EPCA was passed following the oil embargo imposed by the Organization of Oil Producing and Exporting Countries ("OPEC") in 1973. It was designed as a direct, comprehensive response to the energy crisis precipitated by the embargo, see H.R.Rep. No. 94-340, pts. I & II, at 1-3 (1975), reprinted in 1975 U.S.C.C.A.N. 1762, 1763-65; see also id., pt. V, at 20, reprinted in 1975 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 1782 (noting 1973 embargo brought the energy situation in the United States to "crisis proportions"), and among its stated purposes was the reduction of demand for energy through such measures as conservation plans and improved energy efficiency of consumer products, EPCA § 2, 1975 U.S.C.C.A.N. (89 Stat.) at 874.

In this vein, the EPCA set about improving the energy efficiency of thirteen named home appliances that Congress determined contributed significantly to domestic energy demand, as well as any additional ones that the administrator of the Federal Energy Administration ("FEA," a precursor to DOE), in his discretion, determined similarly contributed to energy demand. See generally EPCA §§ 321-39, 1975 U.S.C.C.A.N. (89 Stat.) at 917-32; see also H.R. Rep. 94-340, pt. V, at 94, reprinted in 1975 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 1856 (noting to what degree residential energy use, and specifically residential appliances, contributed to overall domestic energy use); NRDC v. Herrington, 768 F.2d 1355, 1365 (D.C.Cir.1985) (describing program). The Act initially sought to achieve this goal through a voluntary market-based approach, requiring labels that disclosed appliances' energy efficiency as determined under tests developed by the FEA. Upon determining that the labeling program would not result in achieving the desired energy efficiency "targets," the Act resorted to mandated energy efficiency standards. See EPCA §§ 323-26, 1975 U.S.C.C.A.N. (89 Stat.) at 919-26; see also H.R. Rep. 94-340, pt. II, at 10, reprinted in 1975 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 1772; S. Conf. Rep. 94-516, pt. III, at 119-20 (1975), reprinted in 1975 U.S.C.C.A.N. 1956, 1960. The Act set strict deadlines for developing the testing procedures, imposing the labeling requirements, and establishing the "targets" for covered appliances. See EPCA §§ 323-35, 1975 U.S.C.C.A.N. (89 Stat.) at 919-26; see also Herrington, 768 F.2d at 1365 n. 9. Among those covered appliances specifically enumerated by the Act were central air conditioners. EPCA § 322(a)(12), 1975 U.S.C.C.A.N. (89 Stat.) at 918.

Notwithstanding the strict timelines established by the EPCA, and due in part to continuing domestic energy problems, Congress undertook a "complete overhaul" of national energy policy only three years later,...

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