Pawlenty Attacks Government 'Bureaucrats' For Shower Efficiency Requirements Enacted by Congress, Signed by George H.W. Bush

by Ben Somberg

June 07, 2011

How easy it is to make fun of those out-of-control, unelected government bureaucrats! The examples of their wild behavior are just so plentiful. Here's Tim Pawlenty in his big economic speech this morning (prepared remarks, video):

Conservatives have long made the federal bureaucracy the butt of jokes. And considering some of the bureaucrats in Washington, and what they're actually in charge of doing -- like the strength of our showerheads, the vigor of our toilet flushes, or the glow of our reading lamp -- you know, it’s hard not to laugh, or cry, about such things.

Actually, no.

The showerhead and toilet standards were set by Congress in the Energy Policy Act of 1992. From the law:

The maximum water use allowed for any showerhead manufactured after January 1, 1994, is 2.5 gallons per minute when measured at a flowing water pressure of 80 pounds per square inch.

The law also set a 1.6 gallon/flush standard on most toilets. American life went on.

The law addressed manufacturers, not homeowners, so homeowners aren’t required to change their existing showerhead.  It wasn’t a particularly controversial law at the time, passing the House 381-37 and the Senate 93-3. It was signed into law by the not-so-liberal George H.W. Bush. Showerheads were back in the news last year when the Department of Energy said the law meant manufacturers couldn’t attach multiple nozzles onto one fitting and thus double the flow of water. The controversy was irrelevant to the vast majority of Americans, who use showers with a single head.

As for the light bulb standards, those were done by Congress (2007) and then expanded by the Obama Administration. The congressional light bulb initiative, pushed by Representative Fred Upton (R), was uncontroversial enough that it cleared the Energy & Commerce Committee on a voice vote; conservative stalwarts, including Joe Barton, declined to ask for a roll-call vote, as Greenwire has noted. The full bill, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, was signed into law by another left winger, George W. Bush, that December.

Those darned federal bureaucrats! And, of course, if a federal bureaucrat did set a standard that was in contradiction with the laws set by Congress, an affected party could (and certainly would) sue, and the courts would determine if the standard had broken the law.

If Tim Pawlenty is so upset about the showerhead standards, he should take it up with some of the folks who voted for them back in 1992: Mitch McConnell, Chuck Grassley, Trent Lott, Orrin Hatch...

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