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Big Auto, Oil Behind EPA Fuel Economy Standards Rollback

by Countable | 5.29.18

What's the story?

  • Last month we reported that the Environmental Protection Agency was rolling back car emissions standards.
  • Then, E&E News reported that Scott Pruitt appointees on the EPA’s Science Advisory Board received funding from automotive and oil industry groups for research aimed at undermining fuel economy standards.
  • That research now forms the basis for the Trump administration’s efforts to relax vehicle efficiency rules.
  • Fresh allegations say the EPA used an equally faulty report to roll back truck pollution restrictions.

Why it matters

  • Under the Obama administration, the bar for cars was set at 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
  • Automotive manufacturers supported that at the time, but changed their tune when President Donald Trump took office.
  • In February 2017, automakers sent letters to the EPA asking it to remove the standards, saying they are unreachable and unreasonably expensive.
  • In February 2018, the automotive industry group submitted a report based on the research it funded to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, questioning tailpipe pollutants’ contribution to climate change.
  • Pushing back, the Union of Concerned Scientists says the report does not reflect the best science.
"Rather than summarizing the most recent body of research on climate impacts… the report cherry-picks studies to weaken the case for acting on climate and reducing emissions from vehicles, either by selecting outliers or misconstruing the findings of the research."
  • Janet McCabe, who worked at the EPA during the Obama administration, told E&E News that the EPA had 24 peer-reviewed studies and its own 1,217 page staff analysis to support the original rules. Any rollback attempt would have to overcome that strong body of evidence.
  • The report supporting truck pollution rollbacks came from Tennessee Technological University and was bankrolled by a Tennessee businessman. The University itself has called the report into question. David Huddleston, a Tennessee Tech engineering professor, said:
"Tennessee Tech has skills in some areas, but air pollution is an area we have never worked in. I thought, who on campus knows enough to actually even offer an opinion on that? We have one guy who has some expertise in emissions, but he wasn't even involved in this."

What do you think?

Should the EPA use independent scientific studies to inform its rule-making? Should industry influence research that affects its business? Hit Take Action and let your reps know, then comment below.

—Sara E. Murphy


(Photo Credit: Ruben de Rijcke)

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