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Biden administration targets Trump-era rule-making barriers to energy efficiency standards

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

For that to happen, legislation will have to get through Congress. But Biden administration officials are also working behind the scenes to address a different impediment: roadblocks imposed by former President Donald Trump’s administration they say greatly slow down the process of approving new energy efficiency standards.

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

It’s a move leaders at the agency say could allow them to more quickly move such changes through the pipeline. They also argue the change will be key to ensuring the retrofits proposed under Biden’s plan can be as economical and environmentally friendly as possible.

“The efficiency standards are a tremendously positive story about how standards can create enormous waves of innovation that helps people,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told NBC News, calling her agency’s move a “return to our ability to continuously improve.”

The agency made notice last week of its proposed changes to what is known as the “process rule,” which amounts to a set of steps that efficiency proposals must go through before they can be applied. The Biden administration says some changes to that process instituted by the Trump administration last year work to deliberately slow down the process of approving new regulations by a year or more, and it is hoping to have those barriers removed.

Agency officials who spoke with NBC News said the Energy Department should release a final ruling on the administration’s proposed changes within the next two months.

Biden’s proposed infrastructure plan sets aside $213 billion into building and boosting affordable housing units over the next eight years. Some of that would go to retrofitting these residences with new appliances and fixtures — which is part of why Energy officials say it’s important to update the standards. The quicker those standards are refreshed, the sooner manufacturers can begin creating new products based on them — products that officials say would be used in those retrofits and new housing.

“Especially as the president is proposing to build and to retrofit more than 2 million homes and commercial buildings in the American Jobs Plan, strengthening efficiency standards that minimize energy usage gives us the best bang for our buck,” Granholm said. “We’ll be able to provide consumers with energy efficient products that save money and create jobs and protect the environment. It is a triple win.”

Joe Vukovich, energy efficiency advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a statement called the effort “a critical, first step in repairing the damage done by the Trump administration to America’s most successful energy-saving program, which reduces harmful pollution and lowers household energy bills by an average of $500 every 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 his group sued over the changes made by the Trump administration last year.

“While NRDC is still reviewing the proposed rule, it is clear the revisions proposed by the Biden administration would erase the most harmful aspects of the Trump administration’s changes,” Vukovich added. “This includes the arbitrary savings thresholds, as well as burdensome, one-size-fits-all requirements that risked needlessly grinding the program to a halt.”

Devin Watkins, an attorney with the libertarian-aligned Competitive Enterprise Institute, said the Biden administration’s proposed changes are “just the wrong way to go.”

When the Trump administration first made alterations to the process rule last year, CEI praised the new interpretation as 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 that standard, about 40 percent of the rules already on the books to that point would not have been able to be enacted.

An Energy Department official told NBC News those changes forced binding requirements on the agency that were not mandated by law, adding the revisions are “rather inefficient to apply across the entire appliance standards program.”

“So it would be reverted back to a more flexible approach that the agency had before,” this person said of the agency’s proposed changes. “It was tried and tested and all players including industry were fine with it. So we’re just going back to our best practices.”

When it comes to new or updated efficiency rules, at the front of the line for the agency are water-consuming appliance and bathroom-fixture standards that were loosened during the Trump administration — changes that took place after Trump’s lengthy monologues about showers, dishwashers and toilets.

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



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London mayor election: Who is winning in the polls? Sadiq Khan's closest rivals

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SADIQ KHAN is leading in the polls as he goes head-to-head with Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey in the upcoming elections for London mayor. But how are his closest competitors in the race for the capital?

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'Madness!' Clement Beaune blasted over proposal to DOUBLE Brussels' €750bn recovery fund

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CLEMENT BEAUNE’s proposal to “double” the EU’s recovery fund scheme was branded “madness” by Frexit campaigner Florian Philippot.

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What’s changed — and what hasn’t — in 100 days since Jan. 6

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WASHINGTON — A lot has changed in the nearly 100 days since the violent Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Some 370 Americans have been charged for their roles in the attack. An outgoing president was impeached and ultimately acquitted. Members of Congress say it’s more difficult to work across the aisle with those who voted to object the Electoral College results. And one member — Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich. — tells NBC’s Hallie Jackson that he’s suffered from post-traumatic stress from that day.

But a lot hasn’t changed since Jan. 6.

There’s still been no creation of a 9/11-style commission to study what happened.

There’s also been no official account of former President Trump’s activity from the White House after the attack started.

Trump continues to be unmoved, telling GOP donors over the weekend that he was “so disappointed” that former Vice President Pence certified the election results, as well as praising those who attended his “Save America” rally on Jan. 6 before the Capitol was stormed, NBC’s Monica Alba reports.

And Trump remains the unofficial leader of the Republican Party, doling out endorsements and delivering speeches to donors and activists.

A month after the Jan. 6 attack, we wrote that the two political parties have had two vastly different reactions to that day — with Democrats haunted by it, and with Republicans largely moving on (despite some exceptions like Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.)

And the result, almost 100 days later, is a Congress and Washington that have no shared memory of Jan. 6, and that have taken no collective course of action to prevent it from happening again.

Biden’s bipartisan meeting on infrastructure

Those divisions and differing attitudes about Jan. 6 provide part of the backdrop to today’s bipartisan meeting at the White House to discuss President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure/jobs bill.

At 1:45 p.m. ET, Biden and Vice President Harris will meet with Democratic and Republican members Congress, including Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Alex Padilla, D-Calif., Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., as well as Reps. Garrett Graves, R-La., and Don Young, R-Alaska.

Meanwhile, NBC’s Garrett Haake reports that the Senate Republican Conference is out with their talking points opposing Biden’s infrastructure package.

The topline attack you’re going to hear from them: The package is a “slush fund” for liberal priorities, and it will kill jobs.

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Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

More than 400: The number of Senate-confirmed positions for which Biden has not yet put forward a nominee.

31,330,430: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 194,535 more than Friday morning.)

566,097: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 1,905 more than Friday morning.)

187,047,131: Number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S.

19.9 percent: The share of Americans who are fully vaccinated.

17: The number of days left for Biden to reach his 100-day vaccination goal.

Business leaders continue to discuss voting restrictions

“More than 120 CEOs, business leaders, lawyers and experts came together Saturday afternoon to discuss further action against voting legislation nationwide, attendees on the call said,” NBC’s Jane Timm writes.

More: “The group discussed numerous options to push back against the Republican-led efforts to restrict access to the ballot box, including pulling their donations, refusing to move business or jobs to states that pass restrictive measures, and relocating events, said one of the call’s organizers, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld.”

“‘It was incredibly concrete,’ said Sonnenfeld, a professor at the Yale School of Management.”

The meeting was first reported Sunday by The Wall Street Journal.

And the number of the week is … 9 percentage points

Don’t miss the pod from over the weekend, when we looked at the share of Americans who now identify with each party, according to Gallup.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Congress is back from a two-week recess this week, with Democrats facing an even narrower majority than before.

Some immigration advocates worry that the voting bill being pushed by Democrats in Washington might inadvertently hurt non-citizens who are in the country legally.

Extremists planned “White Lives Matter” rallies this weekend. Hardly anyone showed up.

Biden’s infrastructure push is prompting a flurry of lobbying.

What’s next for Democratic action on health care?

One candidate in the Texas special House election is earning the ire of his former colleagues in the Trump administration.

Iran is blaming Israel for a blackout at an Iranian nuclear enrichment site.



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