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Biden administration targets Trump-era regulatory barriers to energy efficiency standards

President Joe Biden’s massive infrastructure plan includes hundreds of billions of dollars to renovate millions of homes with new, energy-efficient appliances, which his administration says would create jobs and help consumers save money.

For that to happen, the legislation will have to go through Congress. But officials in the Biden administration are also working behind the scenes to address another hurdle: Roadblocks imposed by the administration of former President Donald Trump, they say, are slowing the process of approving new standards dramatically. ‘energetic efficiency.

The Department of Energy has specifically targeted the changes brought by the Trump era to the process through which new or revised energy standards for all kinds of appliances and fixtures must go through.

It’s a move agency executives say it could allow them to push forward such changes in the pipeline faster. They also say the change will be key to ensuring that the renovations proposed as part of Biden’s plan are as economical and environmentally friendly as possible.

“Efficiency Standards is a hugely positive story about how standards can create huge waves of innovation that help people,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told NBC News, calling the his agency’s decision to “get back to our ability to continuously improve”.

The agency issued notice last week of its proposed changes to what’s known as the “rule of process,” which amounts to a set of steps that efficiency proposals must go through before they can be implemented. The Biden administration says some changes to this process instituted by the Trump administration last year are intended to deliberately slow down the process of approving new regulations by a year or more, and hopes those hurdles will be removed.

Agency officials who spoke to NBC News said the energy department is expected to make a final decision on the changes proposed by the administration within the next two months.

Biden’s proposed infrastructure plan devotes $ 213 billion to building and revitalizing affordable housing over the next eight years. Part of that would go to modernizing these residences with new appliances and fixtures – which is part of why Energy officials say it’s important to update standards. The sooner these standards are updated, the sooner manufacturers can start creating new products based on them – products that officials say would be used in these renovations and new homes.

“Especially since the president is proposing to build and renovate more than 2 million homes and commercial buildings as part of the US plan for jobs, strengthening efficiency standards that minimize energy consumption gives us the best value for money, ”said Granholm. “We will be able to provide consumers with energy efficient products that save money, create jobs and protect the environment. This is a triple win.”

Joe Vukovich, energy efficiency advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a statement called the effort “the critical first step in repairing the damage the Trump administration has caused to the US energy conservation program on most successful, which reduces harmful pollution and lowers household energy bills by an average of $ 500 each year. “

“The ‘process rule’ for energy efficiency standards may sound like complicated jargon, but it has a huge impact on the energy efficiency of the products and appliances we use every day,” Vukovich said, noting that his group had continued the changes made by the Trump administration last year.

“While NRDC is still reviewing the proposed rule, it is clear that the revisions proposed by the Biden administration would erase the more nefarious aspects of the Trump administration’s changes,” Vukovich added. “This includes arbitrary savings thresholds, as well as onerous and universal requirements that risked bringing the program to a standstill unnecessarily.”

Devin Watkins, an attorney for the Libertarian-aligned Competitive Enterprise Institute, said the changes proposed by the Biden administration are “simply the wrong way to go.”

When the Trump administration first changed the rule of process last year, CEI hailed the new interpretation as being beneficial because it created a higher threshold for what could be considered “significant” savings generated by a new efficiency standard, which it must meet for approval.

Under this standard, about 40% of the rules already in force at that time could not have been promulgated.

An energy department official told NBC News the changes put on the agency binding requirements that were not mandated by law, adding that the revisions were “rather ineffective to apply to the entire program. of appliance standards “.

“So that would amount to a more flexible approach than the agency had before,” said this person of the changes proposed by the agency. “It has been tried and tested and everyone, including the industry, agreed. So we’re going back to our best practices.”

When it comes to new or updated efficiency rules, leading the way for the agency are the standards of water-consuming appliances and bathroom appliances which have been relaxed under the administration. Trump – changes that came after Trump’s long monologues on showers, dishwashers and toilets.

“It was an unusual obsession, I’m just going to say that,” Granholm said.

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