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Trump administration rolls back Obama-era lightbulb energy regulations

Environmental groups said the actions will raise utility bills and increase the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by power plants.
Rows of energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs, marked with the blue energy star symbol, await shoppers at a Home Depot store Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2006, in Orlando, Fla.
Rows of energy-efficient compact fluorescent lightbulbs, marked with the blue energy star symbol, await shoppers at a Home Depot store Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2006, in Orlando, Fla.Joanne Carole / AP file

The Trump administration is rolling back requirements for energy-efficient lightbulbs, eliminating an environmentally friendly policy that was put in place by the two previous presidents.

Under one action, the Energy Department will repeal a regulation enacted under President Barack Obama, set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, requiring an expanded number of lightbulbs in the U.S. to be in compliance with stricter energy efficiency standards. That regulation change was spun off of a 2007 law signed by President George W. Bush that aimed to gradually phase out energy inefficient bulbs like incandescent and halogen bulbs.

The regulation that's being eliminated would have redefined four categories of incandescent and halogen bulbs so that they would be subject to existing energy efficiency rules from which they were previously exempt. It would have applied to about half of the 6 billion lightbulbs used in the U.S., experts have said.

The Trump administration said that the Obama rule is a misreading of the 2007 law.

Trump’s Energy Department also nixed new energy efficiency standards for all pear-shaped lightbulbs that were also scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

The administration's decision on the regulations was made public online Wednesday.

Environmental groups argue that ending the regulations will result in higher utility bills for Americans and the production of more electricity by greenhouse-gas emitting power plants.

At least one group is considering challenging the Trump administration in court.

"We will explore all options, including litigation, to stop this completely misguided and unlawful action," Noah Horowitz, the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Center for Energy Efficiency Standards, said in a statement. “Today’s action sets the United States up to become the world’s dumping ground for the inefficient incandescent and halogen bulbs being phased out around the world.”

The rule changes, first proposed in February, are just the latest example of President Donald Trump rolling back energy- or climate-related policies put into place before he took office.

Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it was rolling back restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants— a cornerstone of Obama's landmark Clean Power Plan.

In August 2018, the administration rolled back Obama-era fuel economy standards meant to reduce air pollution. And last week, the administration proposed cutting regulations on methane emissions, a key contributor to climate change.

CORRECTION (Sept. 4, 2019, 3:25 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated when the administration announced rollbacks in Obama-era fuel economy standards. It was August 2018, not earlier this year.