Much of the science, legislation, and progress advanced during the 8 years of the Obama administration are being ripped away piece by piece. It is a methodical approach. Trump is at the helm and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt is the enforcer.
I have written extensively about Pruitt’s misdeeds, back to July 2016 when he was the Attorney General of Oklahoma. In that role, he worked with other state Attorneys General to sue the EPA. The goal was to repeal the Clean Air Act. These AGs also happened to be the recipients of large campaign donations — from the deep pockets of fossil fuel interests.
Now, Democratic Attorneys General are taking a page from the Pruitt playbook, with lawsuits of their own.
On May 1st, California Attorney General Xavier Bercerra, along with state Governor Jerry Brown, and the California Air Resources Board Chair, Mary D. Nichols, communicated to the public their decision to take a legal route.
Bercerra is leading seventeen states, along with the District of Columbia, in suing the EPA over car emissions rollbacks. The lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court of Appeals in D.C.
California also has a federal “waiver,” permitting it to create its own emission standards, granted under the Clean Air Act.
On April 2nd, Pruitt determined that the previous rules needed revision. He wanted to lock in emission standards at the determined 2020 levels.
Add into the mix a key factor: The regulations that the seventeen states want to uphold encompasses 44 percent of the nation. This puts car manufacturers in a tenuous position. They are not about to put out two sets of cars with different emission standards.
The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, first implemented in 1975, are at the center of the issue. These standards determine the level of fuel efficiency, which in turn impacts the level of emissions.
While Obama was president, the federal government, state regulators, and the car industry worked in tandem to develop fuel efficiency standards for cars and “light-duty vehicles.” The mission was to create a single standard for automakers to follow, which would meet state and federal requirements based on the Clean Air Act and the CAFE standards.
The push for fuel efficiency reflects efforts to:
- Reduce oil consumption.
- Reduce global warming.
- Save money for consumers.
In 2012, Obama’s federal rules tasked car manufacturers to reach the average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. A halfway review was scheduled for April 2018. Toward the end of Obama’s term, the EPA determined that those goals could be met.
Enter Pruitt and his idea about rewriting the standards.
Car industry leaders are not happy with the mess that has been set into motion. Automotive News featured an article entitled, “Auto execs seeking to contain CAFE chaos.” Clearly, they want a “one-emission standard,” in order to produce and sell the same models throughout the country.
Nicholas released a statement to the press that laid out California’s case succinctly:
“This is a politically motivated effort to weaken clean vehicle standards with no documentation, evidence or law to back up that decision. This is not a 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.
This decision takes the U.S. auto industry backward, and we will vigorously defend the existing clean vehicle standards and fight to preserve one national clean vehicle program.
Meanwhile, today’s decision changes nothing in California and the 12 other states with clean car rules that reduce emissions and improve gas mileage — those rules remain in place. 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.”
He sent a strongly worded letter to both Elaine Chao, Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT), and Pruitt, calling on them to drop their proposal to rescind fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards.
The key takeaway from Carper’s missive stated that the proposal, if finalized would:
“Harm U.S. national and economic security, undermine efforts to combat global warming pollution, create regulatory and manufacturing uncertainty for the automobile industry and unnecessary litigation, increase the amount of gasoline consumers would have to buy, and runs counter to statements that both of you have made to Members of Congress.”
American families want to drive clean cars. Will our automakers turn their backs on American families, or do the right thing and give us clean fuel efficient cars? Stay tuned…