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DOE Nixes Key Trump-Era Roadblocks for Updating Appliance Efficiency Standards

November 19, 2021
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Washington, DC—The Biden administration finalized a rule today that will help enable it to cut greenhouse gas emissions by updating energy-saving standards for dozens of types of appliances and equipment. The Department of Energy (DOE) action undoes key provisions of a Trump administration “process rule” that had set hurdles for updating standards.

“This removes some of the big roadblocks the previous administration left behind, and now the Department has several more to finish tackling. Undoing all these hurdles will clear the way for the Department to really get moving on updating the standards for dozens of types of appliances and equipment,” said Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project.

Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, said: “This administration came in with a backlog of standards that hadn’t been updated for years, as well as a series of hurdles placed in front of it. Time is of the essence because every extra month it takes to update a standard, inefficient products are sold that hurt the climate and saddle people with needless energy costs.”

The Trump administration’s process rule, finalized in 2020, added more time-consuming steps and other hurdles to DOE’s already lengthy standard-setting process. Today’s final rule would remove several of these key hurdles. It would return the process rule to nonbinding guidance status, eliminate the strict minimum energy savings threshold for DOE to set a standard, loosen the requirements to adhere to manufacturer-developed testing procedures, and reinstate the potential for a stakeholder negotiation process that enables quicker standard setting in some instances. It would also eliminate a requirement to conduct a comparative analysis of potential standards that conflicts with statute and a mandatory 180-day waiting period between a test procedure final rule and a proposal for a new standard.

DOE still needs to finalize a separate proposal to undo several additional hurdles in the Trump administration’s process rule not addressed in today’s final rule. That proposal would undo: a provision that made it difficult for DOE to set standards for commercial heating and cooling equipment that are stronger than those set by an industry professional society in which product manufacturers have a strong voice; a provision mandating that DOE conduct multiple rulemaking steps before even proposing an updated standard; and a provision requiring DOE to conduct a “coverage determination” process before initiating a rulemaking to set a standard for a product for the first time, even though information learned during the rulemaking process has traditionally itself informed the coverage determination.

DOE also needs to finalize a proposal to undo a rule that effectively blocks DOE from setting strong standards for gas furnaces, water heaters, and boilers in homes and commercial building. And DOE needs to take final action to undo Trump-era rollbacks on standards for lightbulbs, clothes washers and dryers, dishwashers, and showerheads, and a rule allowing manufacturers to write their own test procedures for evaluating the efficiency of products.

President Biden directed agencies in a January 20 executive order to identify Trump-era actions that merited “suspending, revising, or rescinding,” and to complete action doing so by the end of 2021. DOE identified each of the Trump rollbacks and roadblocks in its memo.

As of Inauguration Day this year, DOE had missed 28 legal deadlines for considering new standards. By January 2025, another 19 will come due, meaning that the new administration has 4 years to consider updating standards for 47 products.

Authors

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Ben Somberg
Senior Communications Manager
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