Work on energy efficiency standards for appliances has virtually ground to a halt during the Trump administration, leaving manufacturers and consumers in the lurch.

The Energy Department is responsible for putting out regulations to ensure appliances like air conditioners, refrigerators, and dishwashers are energy-efficient.

Since Trump took office, the department has missed 16 statutory deadlines to assess the need for stronger standards, including three it inherited from the Obama administration.

The administration is also attempting to limit new standards it issues with a proposed rule that could make stricter requirements more difficult to impose.

Missed deadlines and the administration’s proposed rule are the subject of a March 7 hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy.

Appliance Makers Frustrated

The lack of consistency in the standards process has frustrated home appliance makers.

Stephen Yurek, president and chief executive officer of the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, said the industry needs predictability and consistency.

“We’ve been very consistent—be it with the prior administrations or this administration—that they need to issue rules in a timely manner,” he told Bloomberg Environment.

The institute represents 300-plus appliance makers, including GE Appliances and Honeywell International.

Between March 2016 and January 2019, the Energy Department hadn’t issued any determinations as to whether a new efficiency standard is necessary for 13 appliances and hadn’t released final rules for three products, including commercial water heaters, according to an analysis by the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, a group that advocates for efficiency standards.

The Energy Department estimates that by 2030, existing efficiency standards issued before February 2016 will save 132 quadrillion British thermal units (quads) of energy, save consumers nearly $2 trillion on their utility bills, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 7 billion metric tons.

That’s compared to about 100 quads of energy that the entire U.S. uses in a year.

‘Disregarding Law’s Mandate’

The 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act requires the Energy Department to review efficiency standards for more than 40 different types of appliances every six years and decide whether stricter standards would lead to more energy savings for consumers, while being technically and economically feasible for manufacturers.

“This administration has spent the last two years writing proposals that weaken efficiency standards,” Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) told Bloomberg Environment. He said the Energy Department is ignoring the law’s mandate to update or finalize efficiency standards for 16 different products.

“When the law says you need to take a specific action, the department’s job is to carry out the law, not go off and do whatever it wants,” he said.

The Obama administration issued at least 44 energy efficiency standards during its eight years in office, making up for missed deadlines under the George W. Bush administration, which issued just four. The Natural Resources Defense Council sued the Bush administration’s Energy Department twice over the delays.

“The feast-or-famine rulemaking is very disruptive to consumers and to manufacturers,” said Yurek, who will testify at the hearing.

Feds May Set Higher Bar

Daniel Simmons, the head of the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office at the Energy Department, which issues the standards, said in his testimony for the hearing that the department is reworking what’s known as the “Process Rule” by which it decides to issue new standards.

The amended rule would set a higher bar for any new standard to be issued. Energy efficiency advocates fear it would lead to fewer standards getting developed.

Charles Hon, the engineering manager at True Manufacturing Co. Inc., which makes commercial refrigerators, said the company is going to continue to make efficiency improvements despite delays in the standards.

“We’re moving forward on our business model,” Hon said. “We’re frustrated by the fact that they’re not on schedule.”