NRDC Sues DOE Over Illegal Dishwasher Rule

The Trump administration is continuing its assault on common-sense energy efficiency standards to the last, this time fabricating a new loophole for dishwashers that opens the door to unfettered water and energy waste. The Department of Energy (DOE) created a class of dishwashers, those with a default wash and dry cycle of less than 60 minutes, that would be exempt from any water- or energy-saving requirements. Today NRDC filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to stop this illegal midnight rule.

Far from benefiting consumers, the new category of products serves one purpose: reckless dismantling of standards at any cost. It’s a sad parting gift from the Trump administration that would lead to steeper household utility bills and more planet-warming pollution. Under the new policy finalized in October, any dishwasher that can wash and dry dishes in under an hour is exempted from current energy and water efficiency regulations, regulations that have resulted in today’s washers using substantially less energy and water without compromising performance.

Meanwhile, DOE earlier this month decided to compound its illegal actions by attempting the same trick it used with dishwashers by creating a similar exemption for quick-cycle clothes washers and clothes dryers. (Go here for more information on that midnight rule, which we don’t intend to let stand either.)

These actions are both illegal and senseless. When it comes to dishwashers, 87 percent of models on the market already have a short cycle option. This gives consumers the flexibility to select a cycle that saves time when necessary while still allowing modes to comply with current standards, which have cut energy and water use in half since DOE began regulating their efficiency.

Losing this level of performance in even a fraction of the more than 8 million dishwashers sold annually would be a significant setback for a national appliance standards program that saves consumers an average of $500 a year on utility bills. By ensuring everyday products deliver more functionality with less energy and water, efficiency standards are also critical in the effort to head off the worst effects of climate change.

NRDC is joined in this lawsuit by the Sierra Club, the Consumer Federation of America, and the Massachusetts Union of Public Housing Tenants, all of whom are represented by Earthjustice.

It’s not just environmental advocates opposing DOE’s harmful rule—industry leaders didn't want the change either. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers has said in comments on DOE's original proposal that weakening the standards would lead to "additional costs for manufacturers and, ultimately, consumers.”

As noted earlier, this is not the first time DOE has violated the law in neglecting or attempting to weaken efficiency standards. NRDC, joined by consumer and low-income consumer advocates as well as a number of states, recently sued the agency over its failure to meet statutory deadlines to review and possibly update standards for 25 types of appliances and equipment. relating to the appliance efficiency program. NRDC and others also have filed lawsuits over DOE’s rollbacks of light bulb standards, and harmful changes to its efficiency standards process. And NRDC won a lawsuit requiring DOE to finalize four standards issued under the Obama administration that the Trump administration illegally delayed.

But rest assured, NRDC will continue to fight these DOE actions and we will not stop until the appliance efficiency program is back on track, protecting both consumers and the environment.

About the Authors

Joe Vukovich

Energy Efficiency Advocate, Climate & Clean Energy program

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