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Biden picks wage war on Trump’s high-performance dishwasher rule

By Valerie Richardson – The Washington Times – Thursday, December 31, 2020
Those agitating for faster dishwashers may see their hopes go down the drain with the incoming administration.

Two Biden administration picks — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Natural Resources Defense Council President Gina McCarthy — are leading the legal fight to reverse the Trump administration’s recently approved rule creating a new product class for speedier, high-performance residential dishwashers.

The defense council filed a petition Tuesday for review in federal court seeking to set aside the Energy Department’s October rule on quick-wash dishwashers, followed Wednesday by a lawsuit from Mr. Becerra and Democratic attorneys general representing 14 states, the District of Columbia and New York City.

Pushing back against the legal challenges was Sam Kazman, general counsel of the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), who argued that lawsuits would “soak consumers.”

He said federal energy regulations have resulted in cumbersome dishwashers that take up to two-and-a-half hours per cycle without getting dishes as clean as the pre-regulatory models.

“Dishwashers are one of the worst examples of overregulated appliances,” Mr. Kazman said in a statement. “For years, they’ve gone up in price and down in performance as a result of increasingly stringent ‘efficiency’ standards that are worse than non-productive.”

He called the Energy Department’s new high-performance dishwasher rule “a welcome step towards remedying this problem. Whatever goals the 15 state attorneys general might have in bringing this challenge to that rule, serving consumers is definitely not one of them.”

The Energy Department announced Oct. 23 that it would add a third product class of residential dishwashers — there are now classes for standard and compact dishwashers — that feature “cycle times of 60 minutes or less from washing through drying.”

“These changes will allow Americans to choose products that complete a wash or dry cycle more quickly and efficiently and give consumers the choice to decide what dishwasher is most suitable for their personal needs,” the department said.

The 60-minute cycle time was based on testing conducted during the rule-making process indicating that “on average, the new product class can complete the cycle faster while scoring a higher level of cleaning performance, compared to tested normal cycles,” the Energy Department said.

“With this final rule making, we are once again letting the American people — not Washington — decide what appliances to use in their homes,” Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said in a statement.

The final rule was spurred by a petition filed by CEI that argued that dishwashers had become energy-wasters because many consumers had resorted to running cycles twice or handwashing their dishes beforehand as a result of “slow speeds and poor performance.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) accused the department of creating a “loophole” by “needlessly creating a new category exempt from any energy-saving requirements, potentially leading to higher household utility bills and more pollution.”

“This was a senseless Trump administration action that hurts consumers and all who’ve benefited from the significant efficiency gains in dishwashers over more than 30 years,” said NRDC energy efficiency advocate Joe Vukovich. “It also sets an appalling precedent that the agency could abuse by picking any trivial feature of an appliance and exempting it from all efficiency standards.”

Marc Morano, publisher of the skeptical Climate Depot, blasted the legal challenge, saying that “Americans have had it with the government sucking the life and water out of — their lives.”

“After punishing lockdowns in 2020, Americans’ one glimmer of hope was the Trump administration allowing new dishwashers to actually clean our dishes with a speed reminiscent of the machines from our parents’ generation,” Mr. Morano said in an email. “But now, environmentalists led by NRDC can’t even let us have this one soapy pleasure.”