Energy Dept. pushes to reverse Trump-era rule on efficiency standards

Energy Dept. pushes to reverse Trump-era rule on efficiency standards
© ALASTAIR PIKE/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration is set to push for a reversal of Trump-era changes that made it harder to impose energy efficiency standards for commercial products and industrial equipment.

The Energy Department sent out a notification late Wednesday of a proposed update to a regulation, known as a "process rule," that deals with energy-saving standards.

The Trump administration had implemented an energy savings threshold in order to set energy efficiency standards. The proposal posted to the Energy Department's website would remove that threshold.

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It also aims to restore the department’s ability to diverge from the process rule, which the Trump administration made binding.

Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, said the change gives the department more flexibility, saying as an example that it would allow procedures to be modified if new data comes out. 

“It gives them a little more flexibility because rulemakings are complicated and if you have to put it in a straightjacket, that makes it difficult,” Nadel said. 

“They dramatically reduce the opportunities to sue them because if they made one small mistake somewhere reactive to this whole gigantic rule, they could be sued, but if it’s not binding ... you have to sue based on effectively not following the law,” he added. 

The rule will be one of the first proposed under the new administration and would help set the stage for other rules going forward. 

The regulatory process can be time consuming, and in the interim, the Trump changes to the process rule are expected to remain in place.