by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
When President Trump objected to federal regulations of shower heads and when the Department of Energy this week proposed to undo President Barack Obama’s shower rules, Trump’s critics decried the actions as petty and the subject matter as too picayune.
But Trump’s critics are the ones with a question to answer: If the flow of a person’s shower head is too petty to be deregulated, then how was it momentous enough to be regulated in the first place?
The story of how Washington got into our showers started in 1992, but the real action took place in 2010.
A Democratic Congress passed and Republican President George H.W. Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 1992, which dictated the maximum flow rates on “showerheads, faucets, water closets, and urinals.”
The law banned any shower head that allowed water to flow out at a greater rate than 2.5 gallons per minute (which comes out to 5.3 ounces per second) “when measured at a flowing water pressure of 80 pounds per square inch.”
This was an overreach. People pay for their own water. If a family wants a lower water bill, it can always buy a low-flow shower head. …
… But even this intrusion into the most personal moments of a person’s day was not enough for Obama. He wanted to make sure that no showers, including those with more than one shower head, ever spat out more than that congressionally mandated 5.3 ounces per second. Obama could have accomplished this crackdown on multihead showers by pushing legislation to that effect through Congress, where his party controlled both chambers.
But outlawing people’s showers isn’t terribly popular, so Obama opted to use regulatory means. He rewrote the language to redefine “shower head.”