CEI attorneys sue Department of Energy for illegally regulating water limits in home appliances

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Attorneys from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) sued the Department of Energy today on behalf of consumers, arguing that several recent DOE rules restricting water use in clothes washers and dishwashers are illegal. CEI attorneys contend the statutes cited by the agency as justification never gave DOE authority to issue the rules in question. That isn’t just the opinion of CEI attorneys and the plaintiffs – it’s also the opinion of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Congress passed a series of laws that regulate the water use of several types of appliances that were expressly named in statute, such as toilets and showerheads. But DOE then issued several rules that regulated the water use of other appliances, namely, dishwashers and clothes washers, capping the amount of water these appliances are allowed to use per cycle.

In January 2024, the Fifth Circuit found that a different dishwasher rule issued by the Department of Energy was impermissible, because that rule failed to properly consider how its energy-saving provisions would actually work. The court’s opinion also declared that it was “obvious” that the statute in question contained no language that gave DOE authority to regulate the water use of dishwashers and washing machines.  

Regrettably, DOE responded to the Fifth Circuit’s January opinion by issuing new rules in February and April setting more water caps for clothes washers and dishwashers. CEI’s attorneys are challenging those rules in the lawsuit announced today.

Statement by Dan Greenberg, General Counsel at the Competitive Enterprise Institute:

“The Energy Department’s regulations are counterproductive and anti-consumer, and they appear to be lawless, as well. DOE’s decision to ignore the plain language of congressional statute by limiting the water use of dishwashers and clothes washers has already been criticized by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Whether it is good policy to set a water cap that requires appliances to run multiple, wasteful cycles just to get clothes and dishes clean is a question for our elected officials in Congress to debate. The question for the court is whether regulators should be allowed to ignore the text of congressional statutes to achieve their own policy goals. We hope the court where we’re bringing this lawsuit will abide by the opinions of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals more than the regulators at the Department of Energy have done so far.”