AG Becerra sues Trump Administration rule undermining energy efficiency standards for dishwashers

SACRAMENTO , CALIFORNIA – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today led a coalition of 15 attorneys general and the City of New York in filing a lawsuit challenging the Department of Energy’s (DOE) final rule undermining current energy efficiency standards for residential dishwashers. The rule, issued at the request of the anti-regulatory group Competitive Enterprise Institute, unjustifiably exempts a class of dishwashers from energy efficiency standards by creating a new, unnecessary category of dishwashers defined only by shorter cycle times. In the lawsuit, the coalition intends to argue that the final rule violates the Energy Policy Conservation Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.

“As millions of Americans across the country struggle to pay their electricity bills, the Trump Administration chooses to dismantle cost-saving energy efficiency standards,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The goal of today’s lawsuit is simple: hold the Department of Energy accountable for its unlawful action and safeguard a program that saves consumers money and decreases pollution to our environment.”

The Energy Policy and Conservation Act directs the DOE to establish energy efficiency standards covering most major household products, including dishwashers. The DOE’s long-standing energy efficiency program has resulted in substantial economic and environmental benefits, with more than $2 trillion in projected consumer savings and 2.6 billion tons of avoided carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. The Energy Policy Conservation Act’s anti-backsliding provision prohibits DOE from “prescrib[ing] any amended standard which increases the maximum allowable energy use . . . of a covered product.”

In October 2020, the DOE – ignoring concerns raised in comments by a California-led coalition – moved to finalize its proposal to create a new category of dishwashers defined only by shorter cycle times. By creating a new product class, the DOE claims that short-cycle dishwashers are not subject to existing energy efficiency standards for residential dishwashers. In the lawsuit, the coalition intends to argue that the final rule:

  • Violates Energy Policy Conservation Act’s anti-backsliding provision;
  • Fails to comply with National Environmental Policy Act by invoking an inapplicable categorical exclusion to avoid conducting an environmental review; and
  • Is arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act.

Attorney General Becerra has been a stalwart defender of energy efficiency standards since taking office. On November 9, 2020, Attorney General Becerra joined a coalition of 15 attorneys general and the City of New York in filing a lawsuit challenging the DOE’s failure to review and amend energy efficiency standards for 25 categories of consumer and commercial or industrial products. Earlier in the year, he led a multistate coalition in filing a comment letter criticizing the DOE for wasting resources on a prioritization process for its energy efficiency rulemakings, while neglecting its statutory duties to complete those rulemakings. Instead of working to meet these deadlines, the DOE has expended its resources on various unlawful discretionary actions that Attorney General Becerra is currently challenging in court or has opposed in public comments, including its rescission of the general service lamp definition and the Process Rule revisions, as well as its misguided proposal regarding residential furnaces and commercial water heaters.

Attorney General Becerra is joined by the attorneys general of Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, as well as the City of New York, in filing today’s lawsuit.

A copy of the lawsuit can be found here.