A federal appeals court shot down the Biden administration’s efforts to repeal existing regulations on dishwashers and clothes washers on Monday.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion in a legal battle between eleven red states and the federal government over the Department of Energy’s (DOE) efforts to impose energy and water efficiency standards for dishwashers and clothes washers that asserted it “is unclear that DOE has statutory authority to regulate water use in dishwashers and clothes washers,” according to the opinion’s text. The Biden administration has attempted to push new standards for both appliances since coming into office in 2021 as part of a wider push to nudge the market toward more energy efficient appliances, which in some cases are generally  less effective than their other models, the court asserted in its opinion.

In March 2018, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) proposed standards for dishwashers that allow the sale of models that run faster cycles, using more energy and water than standard dishwashers in the process. The Trump administration then adopted similar guidelines as policy in 2020, but the Biden DOE repealed those standards in 2021 before advancing its own standards that crack down on the faster models advantaged by the Trump administration’s rules in May 2023. (RELATED: Biden Admin Fires Next Salvo In War On Appliances)

Fifth Circuit Opinion by Nick Pope on Scribd

“But even if DOE has water-usage authority over the relevant appliances, the Department (b) failed to adequately consider the negative consequences of the Repeal Rule, including the substitution effects of energy-and-water-wasting rewashing, prewashing, and handwashing,” the opinion states. “In promulgating the Repeal Rule, DOE stated that its energy conservation program must promote ‘water conservation’ and regulate ‘water use’ … But it is unclear how or why DOE thinks it has any statutory authority to regulate ‘water use’ in dishwashers and washing machines.”

The court’s opinion also points out that there is “ample evidence” to support that DOE’s dishwasher standards actually accomplish the opposite of their intent, stating that “they make Americans use more energy and more water for the simple reason that purportedly ‘energy efficient’ appliances do not work.”

Beyond clothes washers and dishwashers, the Biden DOE has also sought to impose energy efficiency regulations for items like water heatersfurnaces and pool pump motors. The administration has also spent hundreds of millions of dollars on helping state and municipal governments pursue building codes

“In this opinion, the court has forced DOE to follow the law and even noted that one of the positions DOE took in this suit ‘borders on frivolous.’ This decision allows manufacturers to build better dishwashers, not be encumbered by counterproductive federal regulations,” Devin Watkins, an attorney for CEI, said of the opinion.

The DOE did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Nick Pope on January 9, 2024

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