Dems say Pruitt testimony ‘potentially false and misleading’

Source: Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Democratic Reps. Doris Matsui of California and Paul Tonko of New York expressed concern late yesterday that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt may have misled lawmakers about California’s authority to set clean car rules.

In a letter, the Democrats said they were troubled by reports EPA was considering challenging California’s Clean Air Act waiver, which lets the state set more stringent tailpipe emissions rules because of its air pollution problems.

During a heated hearing on Capitol Hill last week, Pruitt said he wasn’t considering revoking California’s waiver “at present” in response to questioning from Matsui (Climatewire, April 27).

But a draft plan obtained by E&E News on Friday argues that California lacks the authority to regulate fuel economy under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, which gives that power solely to the Transportation Department (E&E News PM, April 27).

“We write today to express our deep concern about reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Transportation [sic] Safety Administration (NHTSA) have drafted a proposal that would essentially revoke the waiver allowing California to set greenhouse gas standards for light-duty vehicles,” Matsui and Tonko wrote.

“If these reports are correct, your response to direct questioning on this issue during your appearance last week before the House Energy and Commerce Committee was potentially false and misleading,” the lawmakers said.

Matsui is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Tonko is ranking member on the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment.

The Democrats included links to reporting on the proposal by E&E News and the Los Angeles Times. And they warned the EPA chief that he may have broken the law.

“As you were reminded at the start of that hearing, it is a violation of the law to knowingly make false statements to a Congressional committee,” they wrote.

Matsui and Tonko also requested documentation related to the draft plan including but not limited to:

  • Copies of all emails related to the draft plan, including correspondence between career staff and political appointees at EPA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the White House and the Office of Management and Budget.
  • A copy of the proposal, including any comments or edits.
  • A list of all internal meetings about the proposal.
  • A list of all meetings about the proposal held with outside stakeholders or industry.

The lawmakers asked to receive the information by May 4.

The draft plan has not yet gone to OMB and could still change. It outlines eight scenarios for revised fuel economy standards.

The preferred option would freeze the standards at 2020 levels through 2026. That would put the Trump administration on a collision course with California and the 12 states that have adopted that state’s rules.

An EPA spokeswoman last week said the agency was still working with NHTSA on a joint rule and called the Times report, which first revealed the draft plan, “not accurate.”

The agency has also said it is working with California leaders. But in response to such assertions, California Air Resources Board head Mary Nichols tweeted: “Hey @EPAScottPruitt, I agree it’s important we work together ‘diligently & diplomatically’ to maintain one national program for #cleanercars so like, call me maybe?”

The Golden State has vowed to maintain Obama-era stringency for cars and light trucks, requiring improvements every year until average fuel economy reaches 54.5 mpg in 2025. That’s a real world fuel economy of 36 mpg.