Greens decry ‘Orwellian’ new title for car-emissions rule

Source: Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The White House Office of Management and Budget has tweaked the title of EPA’s proposed rollback of Obama-era clean car rules, placing a greater emphasis on safety and cost.

The proposal is now titled “The Safer and Affordable Fuel Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule” for model years 2021 to 2026, according to the Reginfo.govonline regulations repository.

Previously, it was called “2021-2026 Model Year Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards and Light-Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards.”

The change signals the proposal’s impending release. EPA is expected to formally announce it sometime this week, said an agency official (E&E News PM, July 19).

The change also suggests EPA may seek to justify the rollback by arguing it will increase safety on the roads and save consumers money.

With regard to safety, nearly 40,000 people die on the nation’s highways each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. EPA may argue that increases in fuel efficiency are often achieved by downsizing and lightweighting, which lead to less safe vehicles.

With regard to cost, a new light-duty vehicle has an average price tag of $36,270, according to Kelley Blue Book, a California-based automotive research company. EPA may argue increases in fuel efficiency can raise the up-front cost of a new car.

Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt previously mentioned cost as a primary concern in his April announcement about revising the standards (Greenwire, April 3).

Paul Billings, senior vice president for advocacy at the American Lung Association, called the new title “Orwellian.”

“It’s an attempt to create some sort of narrative that cars are unsafe and this is going to make cars more safe, which is absurd,” Billings said.

While EPA may claim the Obama-era rules lead to higher costs for consumers, “more fuel-efficient cars pay for that initial investment very quickly, particularly at today’s gas prices,” he said.

In addition to tweaking the proposal’s title, OMB also listed several meetings about the rollback among interested advocates, EPA and the Department of Transportation.

Attendees listed represent both industry and environmental interests, including the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Manufacturers of Emission Controls Association, Environment America and the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.

EPA didn’t respond to a request for comment seeking details on the proposal’s release.

Transportation Department spokesman Andy Post said in an email, “We will keep you posted as we get closer.” He declined to provide further details.