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Showerhead Rules Shaping Up Unfavorably

July 15, 2010
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DOE hints of final ruling in October.

The firestorm caused by the U.S. Department of Energy’s proposal to re-define showerheads as shower valves may have an end in sight.            

Plumbing Manufacturers Institute Executive Director Barbara Higgens told pme this week an article published earlier this month in Congressional Quarterly Weekly reveals a possible date when DOE will announce its final ruling.            

In the piece titled “DOE Climbs in the Shower to Check the Pressure” DOE General Counsel Scott Blake Harris says he expects the definition change to be formalized by October.            

Higgens remains unenthused with the showerhead re-definition situation, but did see a small ray of light in the article in terms of how the elderly and disabled will be impacted.            

In addition to announcing the possible October date, Harris also noted in the article that the language will make an exception for the elderly and the disabled.            

“We think that’s in direct reference to our letter-writing regarding the aging in place population and the physically challenged,” Higgens said. “We’re not thrilled about this, but it’s a dent. The good news, kind of, is they are listening. It looks like they are reacting to what we sent them.”            

A DOE spokeswoman did not immediately return a message left by pme seeking an update on the situation.            

Higgens said her organization is going to continue to push forward against the proposal, which would allow only a single showerhead using no more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute per showering compartment.

“We’re going to continue to gather economic impact data and we’re looking at pursuing challenges on a procedural level” she said. “We’re not happy with this change and we’re not happy with the way in which they did it (quietly publishing it in the Federal Register). It was informal and done in a quick timeframe rather than going through the full rulemaking procedure (the article does mention the plumbing industry’s disapproval of the process).”

Higgens released a pointed official response to the article, which is listed below:

“We are concerned to learn that DOE General Counsel Scott Blake Harris told the Congressional Quarterly in a story released this week on Monday’s federal Independence Day holiday that the new interpretive rule could be formalized by as early as October,” Higgens wrote. “If adopted, the proposal would effectively ban all existing shower systems with multiple showerheads, prevent consumer choice when additional outlets are needed for therapeutic uses and prevent millions of baby-boomers and other Americans from building and remodeling to meet their parents’ and their own aging-in-place needs. In addition, DOE’s characterization of the proposed interpretive rule change as a ‘mere clarification’ ignores the very real implications including an estimated $400 million negative impact on the plumbing industry in today’s volatile economy.

“Government does not belong behind the shower curtains of millions of Americans. We hope that the information presented in the CQ article does not represent DOE’s final position. The severely abbreviated 30-day comment period permits the agency to recognize only two groups-the elderly and the disabled-that they intend to consider for an exception. There are likely other groups out there who will never have the opportunity to come forth and be heard unless DOE utilizes the more rigorous full notice-and-comment rulemaking procedure.”  

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