WASHINGTON (CN) – EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced Monday that the agency is rolling back fuel emission standards for cars and trucks, calling the standards put in place by former President Barack Obama too restrictive.
The Environmental Protection Agency had until April 1 to complete a review of the emission rule and then either revise them to renew them untouched.
“The Obama administration’s determination was wrong,” Pruitt said of the 2012 rule which mandated fleets of cars and trucks increase fuel efficiency rates to at least 36 miles per gallon by 2025 – an increase of 10 miles per gallon over the current standard.
According to Pruitt, the evaluation of greenhouse gas emissions standards intended for model years 2022 to 2025, revealed current standards are “not appropriate.”
The EPA also said Monday it will join with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to develop a notice and comment rulemaking period during which “more appropriate” emissions standards and corporate average fuel economy standards will be determined.
The Obama-era evaluation process, according to Pruitt, was “short-circuited” and “politically charged.”
The fuel standards “didn’t comport with reality,” he said, noting that mandated standards were simply set “too high.”
The announcement may also mean new legal battles for the EPA aren’t far behind.
In 2011, the State of California locked in its own pollution and gas mileage standards and managed to reach an agreement to enforce the rules with a host of major car manufacturers.
More than a dozen states adhere to California’s eco-friendly regulation. Those states and California also sell more than one third of all the cars sold in the U.S.
But under the Clean Air Act, the EPA sets the national standards for tailpipe emissions and as such, Pruitt noted, California’s waiver “is still being reexamined.”
“Cooperative federalism doesn’t mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country. EPA will set a national standard for greenhouse gas emissions that allows auto manufacturers to make cars that people both want and can afford — while still expanding environmental and safety benefits of newer cars,” Pruitt said. “It is in America’s best interest to have a national standard, and we look forward to partnering with all states, including California, as we work to finalize that standard.”
California Governor Jerry Brown called the EPA move a “cynical and meretricious abuse of power will poison our air and jeopardize the health of all Americans.”
A release from the governor’s office notes the agency’s own analysis shows the national clean car standards benefit all consumers by reducing fuel costs and the environment by reducing greenhouse gas pollution.
Last year, Brown wrote a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Pruitt calling President Trump’s decision to review emissions standards for cars “an unconscionable gift to polluters” that “put the interests of big oil ahead of clean air and politics ahead of science.”
Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board shared her disbelief Monday, saying the “politically motivated” effort to weaken standards was not one based on technical assessment.
“It is a move to demolish the nation’s clean car program. EPA’s action, if implemented, will worsen people’s health with degraded air quality and undermine regulatory certainty for automakers,’ Nichols said.
The decision will “change nothing” in California and the dozen states with rules enforcing the old standard, she added.
“California will not weaken its nationally accepted clean car standards and automakers will continue to meet those higher standards, bringing better gas mileage and less pollution for everyone.”
House Republicans Fred Upton of Michigan, John Shimkus of Illinois and Bob Latta of Ohio welcomed Pruitt’s “reasonable and achievable” move to rollback the standards.
The men each chair House energy subcommittees including the subcommittee on energy, the environment and digital commerce, respectively.
“While today’s announcement is far from a final rulemaking and actual changes to the standards, EPA’s determination reflects current realities and better mirrors what the car-buying public wants,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement Monday. “If automakers cannot produce the cars people want to buy at the prices they can afford, they will quickly have an adverse impact on the auto industry, its works and even the environment as older, less efficient cars will remain on our roadways.
New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman, who has waged multiple challenges to Trump administration reversals of Obama-era policies over the last year, also weighed in Monday.
Calling the EPA’s planned rollback a way of “cooking the books on its review of national auto mission standards,” Schneiderman vowed to take action against the EPA if necessary.
“The illegal rollback of achievable, common sense fuel efficiency and pollution standards for cars will result in higher fuel costs and more dangerous air pollution, including the carbon dioxide that drives climate change,” he said in a statement. “We stand ready to take legal action to block the Trump administration’s reckless and illegal efforts to reverse these critical standards and the gains we’ve made in ensuring cars are more fuel-efficient and less polluting.”