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Brief #32—Environmental Policy

Update June 5, 2018
On Thursday, May 31, the EPA formally submitted its proposal to repeal the climate change rules that would require auto makers to double fuel efficiency to an average of 50 miles per gallon by model year 2025. Co-authored by the EPA and the Department of Transportation (DoT), the proposal contains eight options for the revision, with the preferred option being a freeze of fuel economy standards at the 2020 level for cars, S.U.V.s and lighter trucks. Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Registrar, it will be open for public comment before coming into effect.  The DoT also reversed a requirement for states to track the amount of Carbon Emissions, effective at the end of June. This has set up a legal battle between the EPA and thirteen states, with a lawsuit filed by California and twelve others. These thirteen states have sued saying that are allowed to enforce the stricter Obama era rules, despite Federal changes. With 30-40% of the market, this could result in two separate auto markets, and the dual guidelines would create an even larger regulatory burden for automakers than the Obama-era standards. Some EPA officials say that the revision will not allow states to require stricter fuel standards than the Federal mandate, but that it does not intend to completely reject the states’ rights to enforce different standards via waivers. However, the Trump Administration has vocally supported undoing state standards and vowed to “take California out of the driver’s seat.”

Policy Summary
Earlier this month Pruitt announced another step in Trump’s “regulatory agenda” with the plan to lessen automotive regulations on emissions and fuel economy. The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards were revised in 2010 to require a minimum fuel efficiency of 54.5 miles to the gallon (double the current typical average)  by model year 2025.  Pruitt has promised these regulations will be replaced by a new set developed in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These new regulations have not yet been developed. Pruitt has also noted that California specifically has unreasonable standards. Various CA politicians immediately responded that they would hold their state to higher standards and have recently taken legal action along with 17 other states. [Correction 6/5/2018: While 18 states urged Trump to rethink his position on fuel standards, only 13 states are officially a part of the lawsuit.]

While the Obama Era regulations have not yet been replaced, there is the expectation that the new set of rules will drastically decrease the existing requirements. The EPA has made it clear that it views the Obama Era rules as a regulatory burden and that dispensing with the rules will allow automotive companies to produce more affordable vehicles. Before this announcement was made on April 2, 2018, the Department of Transportation announced that it would not enforce the associate fines for failing to meet the CAFE standards, unofficially nullifying the regulations. Many environmental agencies are concerned about the implications of the rollback as it pertains to global warming. In the opinion of many scientists, fuel efficiency and emissions requirements are the best way to tackle climate change. Decreased pollution and decreased oil usage on a national scale would be significant. However, Pruitt has made his loyalties very clear with his rollback announcement location: A car dealership in Northern Virginia. Meetings were held in the Oval Office with major automakers within weeks of Trump’s Inauguration about these impending rules, and the Auto Alliance stated in a regulatory filing in February that climate science cannot be fully trusted.

Engagement Resources

This brief was compiled by Megan Toney. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact megan@usresistnews.org.

Photo by Jesse Collins

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