Fifth Circuit rules for consumers on dishwasher regulation: CEI statement

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Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion that creates new possibilities for consumer choice and manufacturer innovation in the area of consumer appliances.

In 2018, the Competitive Enterprise Institute proposed new regulatory standards that would allow the sale of faster dishwashers that might use slightly more water and energy. The Trump administration adopted our standards in 2020; the Biden administration then revoked them in 2021.

In its opinion today, the Court of Appeals carefully scrutinized the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) authority to regulate water use in dishwashers and clothes washers. In fact, the court suggested that DOE may be entirely without authority to regulate dishwasher water use at all. The court said that DOE should have considered the impact of slow dishwashers on the handwashing of dishes – because handwashing causes an increase in total water and energy usage – but failed to do so. It noted that the DOE’s failure to consider the impact of handwashing was arbitrary and capricious.

“In this opinion, the court has forced DOE to follow the law and even noted that one of the positions DOE took in this suit ‘borders on frivolous.’ This decision allows manufacturers to build better dishwashers, not be encumbered by counterproductive federal regulations,” said CEI attorney Devin Watkins.