Pruitt wants Brown ‘at the table’ for standards review

Source: Camille von Kaenel, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, May 9, 2017

U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has asked California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) to participate in the review of federal vehicle emissions and mileage requirements.

In a Tuesday letter to Brown, Pruitt said he had “made a commitment to follow the principles of cooperative federalism and underlying environmental statutes and that means ensuring states have a seat at the federal rule-making table.”

President Trump announced in March that EPA would reconsider standards he said were rushed by the previous administration. California has since vowed to plow ahead with its own version of the stringent standards, which 12 other states have adopted.

“I want cleaner and more efficient vehicles, but I also want to ensure that we follow the letter of the law and the required regulatory process,” Pruitt wrote in the letter obtained by E&E News. “Many states were not given a voice during the last administration and this dynamic often led to bad public policy and negligible environmental results.”

He did not mention California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act to set its own vehicle standards, which California is concerned the administration may revoke.

Automakers have said the White House will seek to broker a deal with the Golden State over the standards to avoid a patchwork of regulations. The California Air Resources Board has not yet received an invitation, a spokesman said yesterday. A spokesman for Brown did not respond by publication time.

The existing federal vehicle standards are projected to bring the average fuel efficiency of new cars and trucks in 2025 to 50.8 mpg. That could change if EPA decides to lower the requirements. It has until April 2018 to decide what to do as part of a midterm review negotiated by automakers when the rules were first set in 2012.

The Obama administration had tried to lock in the 2022-25 requirements, ahead of schedule, in January. It said that a massive technical analysis by the agency released in the summer showed meeting the existing standards was feasible.

Automakers complained that the process was rushed, and Trump agreed.

Pruitt called the Obama administration’s review “flawed” and a “disservice to the American people” in his letter to Brown. He said that EPA’s final determination to keep the standards unchanged came nearly a year and a half before it was due and did not consider “hundreds of thousands” of public comments during a shortened 30-day comment period.

Furthermore, he said, the determination did not undergo “full” Transportation Department or Office of Management and Budget review.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which sets mileage requirements in parallel to EPA, did not propose its own set of 2022-25 standards at the time. It has until April 2020 to do so.

On March 15, Pruitt and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao kicked off a new review by withdrawing the Obama administration’s decision.

On Wednesday, EPA, OMB, DOT and U.S. Energy Information Administration economists weighed in on the costs of the federal standards in a seminar about how they would affect jobs, led by John Graham, the dean of Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and colleagues.

“With your participation, this reconsideration will be based on the best available data and part of a robust, timely and inclusive process,” Pruitt wrote to Brown. “We hope you will work with us to be part of this process.”

Roland Hwang, director for energy and transportation at the Natural Resources Defense Council, called EPA’s technical analysis a “lengthy, transparent and thorough review.”

“Pruitt may not like the conclusion of the technical review, but it’s grounded in sound science and consistent with independent analysis,” he said. “This letter proves yet again that Pruitt, and the Trump administration, has a fundamental disrespect for science and facts.”