23 state coalition challenges new federal regulations on washing machines

Republicans say the regulations will only further drive up costs and make them less affordable than they already are.

Published: July 9, 2024 6:08pm

(The Center Square) -

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is leading a 23-state coalition of attorneys general opposing another Biden administration regulation on home appliances, this time on washing machines.

They did so as the U.S. House is poised to vote on two bills this week that would restrict Biden administration regulations on dishwashers and refrigerators, among other household appliances. Republicans say the regulations will only further drive up costs and make them less affordable than they already are, The Center Square reported. House Democrats have been encouraged to vote against the bills, arguing they are a political ploy.

A new U.S. Department of Energy regulation on washing machines is the “latest overreach into the livelihoods of middle-class Americans,” Moody said. The administration is now “weaseling its way into laundry rooms in an attempt to further its radical energy policies by implementing harmful and costly standards on washing machines.”

The AG coalition sent a letter to DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm, asking her to abandon a new rule the DOE promulgated or “proceed with notice and comment rulemaking” before enacting it.

The DOE proposed new energy conservation standards for residential clothes washers in March 2023 through a new federal rule as part of an overall energy conservation program. The DOE received numerous comments supporting and opposing it and after months of impasse the rule went nowhere. Then, advocacy organizations and home appliance manufacturers agreed to a joint statement in September 2023 and the DOE finalized the rule in March 2024.

The Energy Policy and Conservation Act “grants DOE the power to regulate residential clothes washers for energy conservation,” the AGs explain. “That grant of authority is not limitless. DOA must also consider the economic burden such regulations will impose on consumers and manufacturers, and whether such burden is economically justified.”

By statute, DOE “may only issue direct final rule if a joint statement is submitted by interested parties who fairly represent the relative points of view and satisfy the standards,” they said. Because the joint statement “was the result of administrative arm-twisting, it did not address issues raised by important stakeholders during the period for comments on the proposed rule,” they wrote to Granholm.

The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers stressed the rule would “eliminate consumer features, reduces choice, significantly increases cost, and/or negatively impacts product performance.”

A study it conducted with Bellomy Research found that the rule would negatively impact low-income households. More than half of U.S. households wouldn’t be able to afford purchasing a more energy efficient washer, the research found, resulting in households purchasing used washers or not purchasing one at all.

Whirlpool argues the rule is not economically justified. Its research found a 25% increase in cost for consumers and a potential 31% loss in industry net present value, which could result in more than 8,000 American job losses. It also criticized DOE for failing to conduct a supply chain analysis in North America.

The joint statement includes advocacy groups like the Alliance for Water Efficiency, the Natural Resource Defense Council, Earthjustice and Others that “do not represent the interests of everyday consumers, and their input should not be given significant weight by DOE,” the AGs argue.

While states like California and Massachusetts support the rule, “many states do not,” the 23 AGs argue. “DOE cannot cherry pick the States with which it is politically aligned to circumvent the ordinary rulemaking process.”

Referring to the rule as “Biden’s war on washing machines,” Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill said the president “continues his attack on Louisiana citizens. This time, his bureaucratic tyrants want to dictate how you wash and dry your clothes. I'll continue to push back on these ill-conceived policies that only hurt hardworking Louisianans and how they operate their households.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Lasko, R-Arizona, who introduced the Hands Off Our Home Appliances Act, said she was “saddened that we would need such a bill.” After the U.S. House passed the bill in May, she said, “No government bureaucrat should ever scheme to take away Americans’ appliances in the name of a radical environmental agenda, yet that is exactly what we have seen under the Biden administration.”

The bill requires that any new energy efficiency standards be cost-effective and prevents household appliances from being banned by the federal government based on fuel usage. It is unlikely to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Depending on Granholm’s response, the coalition is expected to sue to ask a federal court to halt the rule from going into effect, arguing it is illegal.

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