Biden DOE Takes Steps to Reverse Harmful Energy Efficiency Standards Process Changes

Procedures Critical to Continue Consumer & Pollution Savings

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today began unraveling the Trump administration’s harmful and illegal changes to the process for establishing national energy efficiency standards for America’s appliances and equipment, which will avoid significant harm to consumers and the environment.

 In a notice to be published in tomorrow’s Federal Register, DOE is proposing to address a number of the Trump administration changes to DOE’s “Process Rule” and requested comments within 45 days. 

Following is a statement from Joe Vukovich, energy efficiency advocate at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council): 

“This is a critical, first step in repairing the damage done by the Trump administration to America’s most successful energy-saving program, which reduces harmful pollution and lowers household energy bills by an average of $500 every year. The ‘Process Rule’ for energy efficiency standards may sound like complicated jargon, but it has a huge impact on the energy-efficiency of the products and appliances we use every day. This decision is good news for consumers, businesses, and the climate.” 

Ignoring more than 47,000 public comments submitted in opposition to weakening standards, the Trump DOE in January 2020 finalized changes to its “Process Rule” that would make it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to update and establish new efficiency standards. NRDC and others sued over the new elements, including setting an arbitrary baseline for “significant savings” to establish a new standard. About 40 percent of the standards already on the books today could not meet it, which means consumers and businesses would have paid several billion dollars more on their utility bills and there would have been more power plant pollution associated with running less efficient appliances and equipment. 

The changes were made even though DOE’s own calculations show existing common-sense energy-saving standards for appliances and equipment like refrigerators, water heaters, and air conditioners will help avoid a cumulative total of 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide pollution by 2030, equivalent to the annual emissions from 631 million cars. Increased efficiency can reduce the amount of power generated from fossil fuels – and the associated pollution.

While NRDC is still reviewing the proposed rule, it is clear the revisions proposed by the Biden administration would erase the most harmful aspects of the Trump administration’s changes. This includes the arbitrary savings thresholds, as well as burdensome, one-size-fits-all requirements that risked needlessly grinding the program to a halt. DOE acknowledged its frequent difficulty meeting statutory deadlines—and the lawsuits brought by NRDC and several consumer and environmental groups and numerous states over DOE’s failure to review its efficiency standards—in deciding to avoid the harmful  approach mandated by the Trump administration’s changes.


For additional information on the Trump DOE efforts, see this background blog by Joe Vukovich. He will post an updated blog on the issue tomorrow here.


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC  


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