Court orders DOE to reconsider Calif. washing-machine standard

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Energy Department must reconsider California's energy- and water-saving standards for residential washing machines, a federal court ruled this week.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals here Wednesday overturned DOE's 2006 decision denying California a waiver from the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975. On the books since 2002, the rule would require washers sold in 2007 to use no more than 8.5 gallons of water per cubic foot of washing machine capacity, falling to 6 gallons by 2010.

The court found DOE did not adequately justify its denial of the waiver. DOE had denied it partly on grounds that the standards would take effect too soon for manufacturers to comply, but the court said the timeline could have been easily adjusted. DOE also erred in assuming that the standards would prohibit the sale of top-loading washers in California, the court said.

"Clothes washers that use less according to these standards will eventually save enough to supply a city the size of San Diego every year," California Energy Commission Chairwoman Karen Douglas said in a statement on the ruling. The standard would save 18 gallons of water per wash, or 7,095 gallons per year, over typical washing machines.

The court recognized California's unusual need for water efficiency.


"California has no new significant conventional supplies available to increase the amount of water available to its citizens," Judge William Canby Jr. wrote in the decision. "It thus must pursue alternative solutions to the crisis, including efforts at water recycling, desalination, and increased water efficiency."

The standard now heads back to DOE.

"The court's decision does not mean that California's washer efficiency standard will go into effect immediately, but we have reason to hope that, under new leadership, the Department of Energy will see the many benefits of such a standard," wrote Kristin Grenfell, Western legal director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Click here to read the ruling.

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