Dems want to codify Obama clean-car rules

Source: Camille von Kaenel, E&E • Posted: Friday, March 9, 2018

Twenty House Democrats introduced a bill yesterday that would codify the Obama-era targets for clean cars the Trump administration might change.

Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), who spearheaded the bill with 19 of her Energy and Commerce Committee colleagues, is calling it the “Clean and Efficient Cars Act of 2018.”

It would require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and U.S. EPA to maintain or tighten the 2022 to 2025 standards for passenger cars and trucks set by the Obama administration in 2012. The joint rules would bring average real-world fuel efficiency to 36 mpg in 2025.

But automakers have complained the rules are too steep, and the Trump administration could decide to lower the targets.

Right now, the White House is negotiating with California — which has the authority to set its own, more stringent car standards — and automakers to agree on a proposal before a deadline in April.

“Allowing the Trump Administration to roll back these standards would be a step backwards,” Matsui said in a statement. “We should instead be promoting policies that drive us towards a more sustainable future for all Americans.”

The new House bill would bring the force of law to the targets the Obama EPA tried to set into stone in its midterm determination, which EPA head Scott Pruitt reversed.

The new bill would also bar both agencies in charge of the rules from “effectively reduc[ing] the stringency” by “revising the trading, transferring, availability or creation of credits.”

Automakers have long lobbied for those types of tweaks in the program, which they say would eliminate bureaucratic snags. Environmental groups have called the tweaks “loopholes” that would let automakers get away with more polluting technology.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) has previously introduced a bill, H.R. 4011, to codify those types of small tweaks to the NHTSA rules, calling the effort “harmonization.” The Senate is weighing a companion bill, S. 1273, introduced by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

Dave Cooke, a senior vehicles analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, supports Matsui’s efforts.

“Congresswoman Matsui recognizes what we have been saying all along — these standards are working today to save consumers money at the pump and reduce oil usage and emissions from the fleet,” he said. “The data couldn’t be clearer — the technology is there for manufacturers to continue that progress.”

Other sponsors of the new Matsui bill are Reps. Tony Cárdenas, Anna Eshoo, Jerry McNerney, Scott Peters and Raul Ruiz of California; Diana DeGette of Colorado; Kathy Castor of Florida; Bobby Rush and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois; Dave Loebsack of Iowa; John Sarbanes of Maryland; Joseph P. Kennedy of Massachusetts; Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico; Yvette Clarke, Eliot Engel and Paul Tonko of New York; G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina; Gene Green of Texas; and Peter Welch of Vermont.