Budget hits fuel economy testing in wake of scandals

Source: Camille von Kaenel, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, May 25, 2017

Some greenhouse gas emissions requirements for vehicles will still be funded in fiscal 2018 under President Trump’s proposed budget.

But the work does not escape completely unscathed from the budget knife that sliced through most federal climate programs in the president’s plan.

The administration anticipates EPA “will continue to implement” the fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles crafted in parallel with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It noted that EPA is “responsible” for implementing “both the emission standards and significant aspects of the fuel economy standards.”

Trump has decided to reconsider the requirements for 2022 to 2025.

The administration envisions EPA would focus on certifying vehicles, a Clean Air Act requirement for carmakers looking to sell in the country.

The budget also anticipates maintaining the agency’s other vehicle-related work, although it hints at less activity. EPA will continue to test the emissions and fuel economy of vehicles, albeit at a “reduced level,” according to the document. It would also continue its oversight work that has led to two recent lawsuits against Volkswagen AG and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV for cheating on emissions tests, doing additional tests “where there is evidence to suggest noncompliance.”

Former EPA officials said the cuts proposed yesterday would make it impossible for the agency to continue doing everything.

The administration is proposing $76 million for Federal Vehicle and Fuels Standards and Certification, the program that supports the creation and policing of tailpipe emissions requirements. That is more than anticipated in a previous leaked draft budget memo, suggesting a change in course, but significantly less than the $93 million in fiscal 2017.

The Trump administration’s wish list also eliminates $8 million set aside in the science and technology program for crafting and implementing emissions and fuel economy standards. That would cut around 34 jobs.

Overall, the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich., would get around a 25 percent cut.

“In view of the recent VW cheating scandal and now the announcement that Fiat Chrysler is being sued for similar emissions cheating, why EPA’s vehicle emissions and fuel economy testing is being cut back is hard to fathom,” said Gay MacGregor, a former senior policy adviser at EPA’s lab who retired in December. “Cuts of this magnitude will severely hamper EPA oversight where oversight is clearly needed.”