Regulating Your Life
- Does the federal government have the legal authority to regulate anything it wants?
- The Department of Energy has decided they can regulate your dishwasher and washing machines.
- In the case of Louisiana, et. al. v. U.S. Department of Energy, it appears the DOE may have bitten off more than it can chew.
Have you noticed how often the government of the United States decides how you should live your life? It seems everything from food and drugs to the light-bulbs in your home are regulated by Uncle Sam. And whenever some bureaucrat deems it necessary; they simply roll out another “rule” or “regulation” to clamp down on the American people. It seems though, that one of those agencies may have bitten off more than they could chew, at least according to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. In the case Louisiana, et. al. v. U.S. Department of Energy the court decided that one of the DOE’s rules was illegal, but was it unconstitutional?
When Congress decides it wants to exercise a power not delegated to it by the Constitution, it usually reaches for the General Welfare Clause:
They seem to forget the fact that this clause empowers Congress to collect taxes, not to regulate. They also seem to ignore that it only allows Congress to collect taxes for the general welfare of the United States, the very same proper noun used in the Tenth Amendment.
Does this clause of the Constitution allow Congress to do whatever it thinks would be good for America? Not according to James Madison.
Looks like Mr. Madison was correct. Once Congress believed they could apply money indefinitely to the general welfare, they took over everything, including regulating dishwashers and washing machines.
They’re Coming for Your Dishwashers
What led up to the 2022 decision by the Department of Energy to tighten regulations for dishwashers and laundry machines? Why did several states including Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah file suit?
Apparently the Competitive Enterprise Institute thought of a way to get around the DOEs restrictions on energy and water usage. The petitioned the DOE to make a rule that would create a new class of dishwasher that would not need to comply with DOE’s energy and water restrictions.
The DOE adopted the rule proposed by CEI. Apparently, DOE liked the rule so much, they created another rule for laundry machines, or what most of us call washing machines.
Does the DOE thinks it’s valuable to consumers to minimize cycle time in such appliances? Apparently the DOE is more interested in how long an appliance runs than how well. So far so good, until the Biden Administration takes office.
In come the politicians, apparently overriding the rules of the bureaucrats, this time to the detriment of the people who actually purchase and use dishwashers and washing machines. Then a group of states decide to stand up and, if not come to the rescue, at least push back on the repeal of these new rules.
What was the basis of the state’s lawsuit? What was the Fifth Circuit asked to decide?
Arbitrary and Capricious
Part of the law Congress passed to regulate how agencies create rules and regulations is known as the Administrative Procedures Act or APA.
If a court finds that an agency acts in an arbitrary or capricious way, or beyond their legal authority, it must hold those actions as unlawful, therefore deciding for the plaintiff who sued.
Things aren’t looking so good for the Department of Energy at this point.
Basically, the court found that the DOE tripped over itself in two primary areas; their legal powers and the impact of the Repeal Rule. Let’s look at these individually.
First, there is the question of whether or not the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 delegates to the Department of Energy the authority to regulate water use.
So first, the court found that the Department of Energy did not have the statutory authority to regulate water use in these appliances under the EPCA. (See the Constitutionality of the DOE for more on this.) What about the second problem the court found?
Strike two for the Department of Energy. It appears that not only has the DOE gone beyond its statutory powers, but in the name of being energy efficient, their latest rules actually promote the use of more energy and water to do the same job.
According to the court, since the Repeal Rule was outside of the DOE’s statutory authority and did not fulfill the requirements of the policy, that policy is arbitrary and capricious, and therefore did not comply with the Administrative Procedures Act.
While the striking down of the Repeal Rule is a good thing, there’s one very important point the court missed.
Constitutionality of the DOE
- to grant specific authority to the President to fulfill obligations of the United States under the international energy program;
- to provide for the creation of a Strategic Petroleum Reserve capable of reducing the impact of severe energy supply interruptions;
- Repealed. Pub. L. 106–469, title I, §102(2), Nov. 9, 2000, 114 Stat. 2029 ;
- to conserve energy supplies through energy conservation programs, and, where necessary, the regulation of certain energy uses;
- to provide for improved energy efficiency of motor vehicles, major appliances, and certain other consumer products;
- Repealed. Pub. L. 106–469, title I, §102(2), Nov. 9, 2000, 114 Stat. 2029 ;
- to provide a means for verification of energy data to assure the reliability of energy data; and
- to conserve water by improving the water efficiency of certain plumbing products and appliances.
Look all you want, but you will not find the power to conserve energy supplies, improve energy efficiency, or conserve water as a power delegated to the United States. You may be thinking, but what about the international energy program, that was probably done via treaty, which makes it the supreme law of the land, right?
No. The Supremacy Clause states:
Only treaties made under the Authority of the United States are the supreme law of the land. The United States does not have the authority regulate energy or water supplies. Therefore, any treaty that may have been signed is not within the authority of the United States, not the supreme law of the land, and as an unconstitutional act, void.
In fact, since regulating energy is not a power delegated to the United States, the legislation that created the Department of Energy is an unconstitutional act, and therefore also void.
So while the court came to mostly the right conclusion, their failure to consider the constitutionality of the Department of Energy leave the American people with the false belief that the Department of Energy is legitimate and that their regulations have the force of law. This in spite of previous court decisions to the contrary.
Rather than dealing with the unconstitutionality of the Repeal Rule, they merely turned it back over to the illegal agency that created it in the first place.
This is why it’s so important for you to read and understand the Constitution for yourself. Not only so you can recognize these unconstitutional acts, but so you can prepare yourself to defend and assert your rights, including the right to have the supreme law of the land faithfully enforced.
Paul Engel is an Affiliate of Institute on the Constitution. He founded The Constitution Study in 2014 to help everyday Americans read and study the Constitution. Author and speaker, Paul has spent more than 20 years studying and teaching about both the Bible and the U.S. Constitution. Freely admitting that he “learned more about our Constitution from School House Rock than in 12 years of public school” he proves that anyone can be a constitutional scholar. You can find his books on the Institute on the Constitution Store (theamericanview.com), Amazon, and Apple Books. You can also listen to his weekday radio show on America Out Loud (https://americaoutloud.com/the-constitution-study). You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org