Right now, the Trump administration is in the final stages of a years-long attempt to weaken the nation’s most significant program to fight climate change: The Clean Car Standards. These standards limit greenhouse gas emissions from the tailpipes of cars and light trucks – among our nation’s largest sources of dangerous climate pollution.
Moms Clean Air Force is strongly opposed to the Trump administration’s proposed rollback of the successful clean car standards. We view this rollback as a direct attack on the health of our children, reversing years of progress on reducing climate pollution.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) about the Clean Car Standards, alongside my colleagues Elizabeth Brandt, Regional Field Manager, and Elizabeth Hauptman, Michigan field organizer. We requested this meeting as part of the rulemaking process for federal government agencies, which allows the public to provide input on regulations as they are being developed.
Moms Clean Air Force takes these meetings seriously, because we are passionate about making sure that parents’ voices and perspectives are prioritized in policymaking. These meetings become part of the public record. In the case of the Clean Car Standards, you can find all the meetings that the White House is having about this rule, at this stage of the process, right here.
We’ve weighed in the Trump administration’s proposal to dismantle the Clean Car Standards many times before. This week, we brought many of our longstanding concerns to the table, including the moral obligation to strengthen, not weaken, our efforts to reduce climate pollution, for the sake of our children’s health. But we also brought a different set of concerns, about how the rulemaking process itself has been riddled with procedural failures, which represent what seems like a concerted effort to block input from concerned stakeholders.
- Turning a deaf ear to parents. Last year, when the Trump Administration was finalizing part of the Clean Car Standards rollback, I requested a similar meeting with OIRA. After languishing for six weeks, this meeting request was declined, alongside those of several other advocacy organizations. By ignoring my meeting request, the White House made it clear that it does not want to hear our voices.
- Ignoring scientific experts. We are also deeply troubled that the concerns of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) have been sidelined by the Trump Administration. Back in October, the SAB produced a report detailing major concerns with the Trump Administration proposal to undermine the Clean Car Standards. However, this report wasn’t released to the public until the last day of 2019, more than two months later. Meanwhile, the draft final rule moved forward and into final review – without any indication that the SAB’s serious concerns have been addressed. This seems like a deliberate campaign to bury flaws in the science underpinning the rollback.
- Abandoning the basic principles of federal rulemaking. Last month, Senator Tom Carper, ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, sent a scathing letter to the administrator of OIRA, the White House office currently reviewing the Clean Car Standards rollback. In the letter, Senator Carper indicates that he has seen a copy of the draft final proposal – something that is not yet public – and that the final proposal shows that the proposed rule will result in more costs than benefits. This “flies in the face of rational rulemaking,” Carper writes. The Trump Administration is championing a rollback that would lead to net costs while also making climate pollution worse — and appalling, negligent handout to corporate executives.
- Lying about the proposal. Last spring, EPA Administrator Wheeler was in the habit of claiming in his public speeches — even in testimony to Congress — that the proposed rollback of the Clean Car Standards would have little effect on dangerous climate pollution. This, even as the proposal itself clearly showed massive increases in emissions. The Trump Administration’s own analysis indicated that their rollback would cause an increase in greenhouse gas pollution from cars on the order of 7.4 billion tons by 2100. Meanwhile, Administrator Wheeler favored a talking point claiming that the pollution would be “about the same.” To say this talking point was profoundly misleading is too kind. These public lies eroded the ability of stakeholders to understand what the proposal actually means for our children, our families, and our communities.
- Constraining public input. Moms Clean Air Force remains disappointed with the length of the public comment period for this proposal. The Trump Administration opened a 60-day period after the rollback was proposed in 2018, during which the public could submit reactions to the proposal. To put this into context, 60 days is relatively short for such a consequential and complex rule. After more than a dozen groups submitted requests for an extension of the comment period, the Trump Administration granted a paltry 3-day extension. Their justification for so severely limiting public engagement in the proposal was that automakers needed rapid resolution of this issue. This was an absurd claim: Automakers were among those who asked for the extension. And since then, there has been no attention to hurrying the rule along. Indeed, more than a year has gone by. This suggests that the unwillingness to extend the comment period was intended to limit the ability of stakeholders to weigh in.
This process has been riddled with procedural failures and obfuscations, and that’s not even touching on the actual substance of the rollback: Climate change.
As parents, it’s our moral obligation to protect our children from climate change. The world’s scientists are raising the alarm on climate change, on our lack of progress to address this problem, and on the grave consequences of runaway greenhouse gas pollution. Scientists tracking glaciers and ice melt are alarmed by the speed with which these processes are playing out, often much faster than predicted. These observations impel us to act even faster, bolder, and with more urgency to address this problem. The Clean Car Standards are the most effective policy we have on the books to fight climate change, and the transportation sector is the country’s largest source of the carbon pollution that causes climate change. All available science, and our moral obligation as parents, point to the need to strengthen, not weaken, these standards.