Carper presses top official to soften rollback

Source: Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, December 7, 2018

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) met with a top Department of Transportation official this week to press for softening the Trump administration’s rollback of Obama-era clean car rules.

Carper, the ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, told reporters yesterday that he met Tuesday with Jeffrey Rosen, deputy secretary at DOT.

Rosen is one of several administration officials said to be driving the rollback of the Obama-era fuel efficiency standards for cars (Greenwire, July 31).

“[The meeting] was good. We met for over an hour,” Carper told reporters. “I had an opportunity to present a real win-win situation for the administration where we actually bolster our automakers in this country and give them what they want: predictability and certainty.”

EPA and DOT in August proposed freezing fuel economy requirements at 2020 levels through 2026, rather than increasing their stringency each year as President Obama had envisioned.

The agencies also proposed rescinding California’s Clean Air Act waiver for greenhouse gases, which allows the state to set tougher tailpipe pollution rules than the federal government. Thirteen other states have adopted California’s tougher rules, representing about 40 percent of new cars sold in the country.

In its current iteration, the rollback is certain to trigger a lengthy legal battle between the Trump administration and the states that follow California. While the two sides fight in court, automakers would be left with prolonged regulatory uncertainty, which would undermine their long-term planning.

Ever since the rollback was unveiled in August, Carper and other advocates have been pressing for a compromise that would provide automakers with greater certainty.

“I think the idea is to come up with something where the automakers get some extra flexibility between ’21 and ’26, and then in turn … there’s no standards actually going beyond ’25,” Carper said yesterday.

“It’s a win-win. It’s just there for the taking,” he added. “[The automakers] are all for it. … They want predictability, certainty, near-term flexibility and more stringent standards going forward.”

In regulatory comments, several automakers have said they support increasing the stringency of the standards each year. But they’ve also asked the Trump administration for additional “flexibilities,” or extra credits for technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions but aren’t necessarily tied to the engine, like more efficient air conditioning (Climatewire, May 23). Environmentalists call some of these credits “loopholes” because their benefits aren’t well-verified.

Rosen previously served in the George W. Bush administration, first at DOT and then at the White House Office of Management and Budget. During that period, he emerged as a vocal foe of EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

E&E News reported in 2008 that Rosen was one of several Bush officials who pushed the administration to scrap EPA’s well-developed plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles, power plants, petroleum refiners and other major polluters (E&E Daily, July 18, 2008).

Reporters Nick Sobczyk and Geof Koss contributed.