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House eyes energy standard limits as climate wars hit laundry

Lawmakers are also scheduled to take up a separate bill that includes provisions to support nuclear energy

Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., introduced the energy efficiency standards measure to be considered by the House Tuesday.
Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., introduced the energy efficiency standards measure to be considered by the House Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House is scheduled on Tuesday to vote on a blanket bill to limit the Biden administration’s ability to implement energy efficiency standards, pulling back, at least for the time being, from votes on separate titles that would’ve done the same for dishwashers and other home appliances.

The bill from Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., to be considered under a rule, would amend the Energy Policy and Conservation Act to allow the Energy Department to grant a petition to revoke or amend energy conservation standards if it finds they are not feasible with current technology.

It would also require that any standards be economically justified, meaning they are unlikely to raise consumer costs while resulting in “significant conservation of energy or water.” While this language is in the EPCA, Republicans said it was necessary to reaffirm these requirements due to the Biden administration’s recent rulemaking.

House leadership originally scheduled Lesko’s bill for a floor vote last month, along with others specific to dishwashers, air conditioners, refrigerators and clothes washers and dryers that would have much the same effect. These plans were scuttled as the House dealt with foreign affairs bills.

The Energy Department has been updating a number of household appliances’ standards, which the department has noted are required to fulfill congressional mandates.

However, Republicans have voiced their opposition to these stricter standards, which they argue will result in fewer benefits for consumers and raise costs.

“Unfortunately, President Biden’s DOE has consistently abused their authority to push a radical energy agenda on American families and consumers, attempting to implement conservation standards that are neither economically justifiable nor significantly more energy efficient,” Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., said in a statement. “These overreaching rules take away consumer choice, burden American families, and force Americans to use expensive appliances that do not perform as well.”

While not promising a veto, in a statement of administration policy the Office of Management and Budget said the bill contains “redundant, red-herring provisions” that were already included in the EPCA and that “it would only increase consumer costs and create uncertainty for appliance manufacturers.”

Last year the House passed bills that would prohibit the administration from finalizing any regulation banning gas stoves. Despite the administration’s assurances it had no plans to do so, Republicans said it was necessary to prevent government overreach after a member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission said such a rule may be necessary due to possible adverse health effects. On both of those votes, 29 Democrats joined all Republicans in supporting the measures. 

Domestic nuclear energy

The House is separately scheduled to take up a bill under suspension of the rules to reauthorize the U.S. Fire Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency firefighting grants — amended to include the text of a compromise measure supporting nuclear energy.

The amended bill includes a number of provisions in another bill that Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., chair of the Energy, Climate, and Grid Security Subcommitee, introduced with ranking member Diana DeGette, D-Colo. That bill passed the House in February by a vote of 365-36.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved its own bipartisan nuclear bill, introduced by ranking member Shelley Moore Capito R-W.Va., last year, by a vote of 19-3.

The compromise text would direct the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to develop processes to expedite the review and licensing of nuclear reactors. It would also establish prizes to support the deployment of advanced nuclear reactors, which are expected to be smaller and more fuel-efficient, and encourage the development of nuclear sites in retired fossil fuel sites.

While the House is moving its bill, Capito proposed adding it as an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill.

The move comes as both Congress and the administration have taken other steps to support domestic nuclear energy, a carbon-free option that could help the U.S. reach its climate targets.

Last week the Senate passed a bill by unanimous consent that would prohibit imports of Russian uranium, clearing it for President Joe Biden’s desk. Supporters said the ban is necessary to build up the domestic commercial uranium fuel supply chain and ensure the deployment of more nuclear power does not inadvertently support the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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