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Federal courts hand down decisions impacting home appliances, renewable energy and petroleum

“The administrative record contains ample evidence that DOE’s efficiency standards likely do the opposite: They make Americans use more energy and more water for the simple reason that the purported ‘energy efficient’ appliances do not work,” the ruling explained.

Published: January 16, 2024 12:14am

The Supreme Court declined to rule on two court cases Monday involving energy development, while a federal appeals court blasted the Biden administration’s appliance efficiency standards.

Home appliances

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Monday sided with 11 red states that sued the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) over its promulgated efficiency standards for dishwashers and washing machines, ruling that “it is unclear the DOE has any statutory authority to regulate water use in dishwashers and clothes washers.”

The court also stated in its opinion that, even if it does have that authority and the agency had water-usage authority over these appliances, it failed to consider the “negative consequences” of the standards, which would have the opposite effect of their intent.

“The administrative record contains ample evidence that DOE’s efficiency standards likely do the opposite: They make Americans use more energy and more water for the simple reason that the purported ‘energy efficient’ appliances do not work,” the ruling explained.

The Biden administration has committed extensive attention to reducing the energy and water use of just about every appliance in the home, including gas stoves, dishwashers, air conditioners, refrigerators, light bulbs, washing machines, microwaves and furnaces.

In March 2018, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), the Daily Caller reported, proposed standards for new dishwashers that would run faster cycles, which would increase energy and water consumption. The Trump administration adopted guidelines that aligned with the CEI proposal, but President Joe Biden repealed those standards in 2021. It then went on to propose its own, more stringent standards.

Devin Watkins, attorney with CEI, said in a statement that the decision will bring benefits to consumers.

“We hope that its newly-announced rulemaking proceeding will end up improving consumer choice, allowing people to purchase dishwashers that clean quickly and well,” Watkins said in a statement.
The DOE did not respond to requests for comment.

Climate suit

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a request from the American Petroleum Institute’s to get a climate lawsuit filed by Minnesota moved to federal court.

Minnesota alleges that by selling and promoting oil and gas to people who buy it, the defendants are defrauding the public, resulting in harm to the state and citizens as a result of climate change. Minnesota is asking the energy firms to give up any profits they make from the sale of products it says are dangerous.

Other states and local governments are suing oil companies for similar reasons.

The court didn’t provide details on its decision to deny certiorari, only noting that Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a Republican appointee, would have granted the companies’ request.

Writing at the “Volokh Conspiracy,” Jonathan Adler, law professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law, said that the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 8th, and 9th Circuit Court of Appeals have rejected similar requests in other cases, and the Supreme Court has shown little interest in reviewing the decisions.

Adler argued that the Supreme Court has previously ruled that federal environmental laws do not preempt state law claims against polluters, and that the authority to preempt state-level lawsuits about climate change rests with Congress.

Former U.S. Attorney William Barr and Adam White, senior fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, had opined in the Wall Street Journal that the case belongs in federal court, because energy policies should not be set by federal, state or local judges, but rather through the Constitution's democratic processes. Moving the case to federal court, the authors argued, would ensure that happens.

Pebble mine

The Supreme Court also declined without comment to hear a request from the State of Alaska to review the EPA’s veto of the proposed Pebble copper and gold mine in Bristol Bay.

In July, according to E&E News, Alaska’s Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy asked the high court to reverse the EPA’s block on Pebble and other extraction projects on state land in southwestern Alaska.

The EPA’s veto was issued under the authority of the Clean Water Act, and Alaska officials argued that it violated the state’s ability to regulate its own land and waters. The court didn’t mention any dissent.

Rick Whitbeck, Alaska state director for Power The Future, an energy advocacy group, criticized the Biden administration’s EPA for undermining the state’s ability to develop its resources.

“It’s the disgusting way the Biden Administration picks winners and losers among Indigenous groups. If you are an anti-development, anti-jobs, and wilderness-above-everything tribe or organization, you get whatever you want,” Whitbeck told Just The News.

Whitbeck said that the administration ignores Alaskan voices who are “pro-jobs, pro-responsible development,” and in favor of “hand ups rather than hand outs.”

“They claim to prioritize tribal consultation, but they consistently ignore groups in Alaska and elsewhere who don’t preach their big government, ‘there is a climate crisis’ message,” he said. The state had skipped review by appellate courts and took the case directly to the high court.

In a statement, Dunleavy said Alaska will continue to fight what he called “flagrant overreach,” and that the state is confident lower courts will find against the EPA.

Gold and copper are vital to the Biden administration’s goal of transitioning the U.S. to clean energy, yet it has killed a few major mining projects that would help develop domestic sources of these critical minerals.

“At a time when federal administrations are fast-tracking renewable energy development, the careful production of copper and other rare minerals, like those found in the Pebble area, is more important than ever,” Dunleavy said.

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