Defying Science and Public Interest, EPA Opens Door to Gutting Successful Vehicle Standards

Statement by Michelle Robinson, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Aug 10, 2017

WASHINGTON (August 10, 2017)—Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the agency would reopen the midterm evaluation of vehicle efficiency standards, raising the possibility that this successful policy could be weakened or rolled back. Undermining these standards would reverse critical progress made towards cleaner cars, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Michelle Robinson, director of the Clean Vehicles program at UCS.

“The final determination made in January to keep these standards moving forward was based on years of robust scientific work by the EPA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the California Air Resources Board. The conclusion was clear: these standards are working, they’re delivering real benefits to drivers, and manufacturers have the technology to meet them. Now, this administration is looking for excuses to let automakers back out of the promises they made to the American people. And they’re willing to throw out good research and analysis to do so.

“What’s worse, Administrator Pruitt is not just re-opening the standards for 2022 through 2025—the years the midterm evaluation was meant to cover. He’s also looking to undercut standards for 2021, a break from the midterm evaluation process agreed to by both the automakers and the agency. Automakers have already invested in the technology to meet them. Lowering the bar for 2021 serves no purpose other than to weaken future standards.  

“In re-opening this evaluation, EPA political leadership are introducing ‘additional considerations’ for evaluating these rules—but the issues they are raising were largely included in the extensive evaluation process the agencies have already gone through. We need to work from evidence, not the wish lists of industry trade groups. You can’t throw out scientific findings just because you don’t like the results. But agency political leaders and automakers seem determined to move the goalposts and change the evaluation criteria until they get the answers they want.

“The EPA has a critical role in setting these standards—they have the labs, the researchers, and the experience to carry out this work, as we saw from last year’s Technical Assessment Report. Pruitt doesn’t seem to want his agency to do its job.

“This decision is shortsighted and dishonest. By letting auto industry lobbyists influence him to reopen this determination, Pruitt has failed in his duty to listen to the science and carry out the mission of his agency on behalf of the public.

“Strong standards mean drivers spend less money at the pump and burn less oil. These standards cut the emissions that contribute to climate change, and spur innovation that keeps American manufacturers competitive around the world. America’s drivers have saved more than $40 billion thanks to these standards. It makes no sense to ignore the evidence and roll back rules that are working.”