Energy and Commerce to tackle fuel economy standards

Source: Ariel Wittenberg, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, September 19, 2016

U.S. EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation Janet McCabe will testify before two House Energy and Commerce subcommittees during a hearing Thursday to examine the impact corporate average fuel economy standards have on economic growth.

The Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee will join the Energy and Power Subcommittee for the hearing. The session comes as U.S. EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conduct a midterm review of standards for 2017 through 2025, which could ultimately result in a regulation adjustment.

“Next week’s hearing will provide our members an opportunity to examine the significant economic impacts these standards could have on consumers,” the subcommittee’s chairmen, Texas Republican Reps. Michael Burgess and Pete Olson, said in a statement. “We need to know if these standards are impacting vehicle choices, raising prices, and most importantly whether they are pushing low-income consumers out of the car-buying market altogether.”

When current CAFE standards were written in 2012, EPA and NHTSA estimated they would result in an average fuel economy for cars and light trucks of 54.5 mpg by 2025.

This summer, the agencies completed the first step of their midterm review when they released a 1,217-page draft technical assessment report. That document found that the standards are still achievable but, due to consumer purchasing preference, will likely result in an average fuel economy between 50 and 52.6 mpg by 2025 (ClimateWire, July 19).

Environmentalists have staunchly advocated for the standards to remain the same, if not be strengthened. Meanwhile, automakers have argued that the requirements are too technically difficult and costly to meet.

This is not the first time the House Energy and Commerce Committee has expressed interest in the review process.

In April, Burgess signed onto a letter with full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) asking that the public be given ample time to review the draft technical assessment report (E&E Daily, April 12).

“We look forward to a Mid-Term Evaluation process that offers a robust opportunity for public participation, and that includes a comprehensive review of all information relevant to the … standard,” they wrote. “The Mid-Term Evaluation is an important regulatory assessment, and the results may change the course of the program and have significant economic impacts, especially for consumers.”

Schedule: The hearing is Thursday, Sept. 22, at 10 a.m. in HVC-210.

Witnesses: Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, EPA; Paul Hemmersbaugh, chief counsel, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; John Bozzella, president and CEO, Global Automakers; Mitch Bainwol, president and CEO, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers; Peter Welch, president, National Automobile Dealers Association; John D. Graham, dean, Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs; John German, senior fellow, International Council on Clean Transportation; and Mark Cooper, director of research, Consumer Federation of America.