The Department of Energy (DOE) recently finalized additional household appliance rules. This time, the victims are residential clothes washers and dryers. These rules are a part of the Biden administration’s aggressive climate agenda to achieve “a net-zero economy by 2050.” They are slated to be implemented by March 2028. 

A bit of background is helpful in understanding the implications and potential challenges to the rules. 

Prior to the Trump administration, federal standards made it hard to use short-cycle household appliances like washing machines. 

Back in 2018, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) called on the DOE to add a new classification of dishwashers with a short cycle that would not be subject to federal regulations and thus provide better performance. 

The Trump administration answered CEI’s call. Arguing that federal guidelines on short-cycle appliances caused Americans to run multiple loads to make sure their dishes and clothes were cleaned thoroughly, the Trump administration established new appliance categories for not only shorter-cycle dishwashers but also washing machines in 2020. These new categories weren’t bound by water or energy conservation standards. The DOE’s justification was “recognition of cycle time as a valuable consumer utility.”  

In 2022, the Biden administration subsequently repealed Trump-era efficiency rules and made the shorter-cycle washing machines and dishwashers again subject to federal efficiency standards. Due to this repeal, these household appliances mostly went back to longer cycles.  

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year that the DOE needs to reconsider its repeal of Trump-era efficiency rules, ruling that the repeal efforts were “arbitrary and capricious.” 

The court wrote about the department’s actions:

[It] failed to adequately consider appliance performance, substitution effects, and the ample record evidence that DOE’s conservation standards are causing Americans to use more energy and water rather than less.

Additionally, the court found that it is unclear whether the Energy Policy and Conservation Act authorizes the DOE to regulate water conservation from these appliances in the first place. It wrote, “No part of that text indicates Congress gave DOE power to regulate water use for energy-using appliances (like dishwashers and washing machines).”

In response, the DOE collected data on whether short-cycle categories for household appliances, like dishwashers, clothes washers, and dryers, are authorized under the law. The final rules reflect recommendations from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) and environmental organizations and efficiency advocates that argued short-cycle appliances were not a part of their proposals. 

The DOE likely faced outside pressure to finalize the rules as a 2022 legal settlement with environmental groups gave a deadline of February 29. This settlement agreed to by the DOE ordered the department to review energy efficiency standards for 20 categories of appliances, including gas furnaces, refrigerators, and microwave ovens.    

While the new finalized rules are less extreme than those originally proposed, as Ben Lieberman, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, declared

What we’re learning is that the government ought to get out of the business of doing these regulations, and not try to just float really extreme ones and then come up with something that’s less extreme.

Thankfully, these rules are likely to face new legal challenges as the repeal of the Trump-era regulations did.  

Perhaps the potential Supreme Court challenge to the Chevron Doctrine will show that the DOE has engaged in aggressive rulemaking that goes beyond its constitutional authority. 

By finalizing numerous aggressive household appliance rules, the Biden administration’s DOE has somehow forgotten Constitutional Law 101: The executive branch’s role is to execute the law not make it, and the legislative branch’s role is to make the law.

Independent Women is exposing the Department of Energy’s over 15 proposed or finalized regulations that would make your home cost more to run, repair, and replace. This blog is in a series called “Secretary Granholm—Hands Off My House.” To learn more and take action, visit OUR ACTION CENTER. Be sure to check out the interactive “Secretary Granholm’s House of Horrors” to see how the rules could affect appliances in your home.