Aug. 2, 2018

Clean Cars Rollback Is Equivalent of a 100-Car Pileup

Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen

Note: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today released a proposed rule that rolls back clean car standards, also known as fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards. This plan would freeze vehicle standards at 2020 levels and revoke the California waiver, which allows that state, 12 other states and the District of Columbia to set more stringent tailpipe pollution standards. Public Citizen and other groups will hold a press conference at noon today outside the EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The Trump administration’s rollback of clean car standards is a disastrous wreck for consumers and the planet. Making today’s news into the equivalent of a 100-car pileup is the administration’s plan to revoke the authority for California and other states to maintain tailpipe pollution standards that are more stringent than the federal government requires. That rollback will directly affect the 113 million Americans who count on more stringent standards, forcing them to pay more at the pump and breathe dirtier air.

This proposal puts the Trump administration on a collision course with California and the supermajority of Americans who want more fuel-efficient vehicles. Americans understand and demand the twin benefits of lower gasoline bills and reduced carbon pollution. The only good news is that the administration’s course will fail – in the courts, in the political realm and the marketplace.

According to the EPA’s own analysis, automakers are meeting the clean car standards faster and more affordably than predicted, but the Trump administration’s new proposed rule would loot up to $98 billion from consumers at the gas pump. Indeed, rolling back the standards may itself increase the market price of gasoline, as demand for gas rises.

The administration purports to justify the clean car standard rollback on the basis of its concern for passenger safety. That claim gives fig leaves a bad name. It is so laughable that former coal industry lobbyist and current Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler sought to block or delay issuance of the rule, according to multiple news reports – not because he wanted to preserve the rule, but because he thought the evidentiary justification so weak that the rule would not survive judicial scrutiny. (Apparently having received his marching orders, in congressional testimony on Wednesday, Wheeler invoked the fictional claim that revoking the clean car standards would advance safety and save 1,000 lives per year.)

Meanwhile, the automakers have sought to distance themselves from the rollback, even though it is precisely the outcome they lobbied for. But all the crocodile tears in the world won’t clean up their dirty image. If the auto industry really wants to stop the rollback of the clean car standards, it need only send the word to its representatives in the Trump administration.

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