Urinal Tales: A Real Waste of Regulatory Energy

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BY DIANE KATZ – If you’re concerned that the Solyndra scandal is hampering other energy initiatives, worry not. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is moving right along with its review of urinal efficiency.

Not urologically speaking, of course, but in terms of the ceramic catch of nature’s call.


The federal plumbing police last codified water efficiency standards for urinals back in 1998. According to statute, the DOE must allow states to toughen such requirements if the feds don’t do so within five years. Having thus waived pre-emption, the agency is now seeking information and comment on the status of urinals across the land to evaluate whether a new federal standard is warranted.

All of which is spelled out in excruciating detail in the Energy Conservation Program for Consumer Products Other Than Automobiles, which also regulates the efficiency of toilets, faucets, and showers. And refrigerators and freezers, air conditioners, water heaters, furnaces, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers, ovens and ranges, pool heaters, television sets, light bulbs, and anything else the Energy Secretary deems as electrically profligate.

(Just FYI—urinals also are regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which requires at least one urinal for every 40 workers at a construction site for companies with less than 200 employees and one for every 50 workers where more than 200 are employed. The Americans with Disabilities Act also delineates the proper dimensions and placement of bowls.)

A request to DOE for more information failed to garner a response. Could it be that the bathroom bureaucrats are a tad reluctant to discuss urinal policy? In any case, what we do know makes us want to wash our hands of Washington.