Public gets 3 extra days — not 60 — to comment

Source: Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Trump administration will extend the comment period on its rollback of Obama-era clean car rules by three days — a far cry from the 60 days requested by congressional Democrats and other stakeholders.

EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said late Friday that they had received multiple petitions asking to extend the comment period by 60 days.

In a Federal Register notice slated for publication Wednesday, the agencies said they had rejected those petitions and would instead commit to three additional days.

“This extension is shorter than that requested by several parties, and those requests are accordingly denied,” the notice states.

The agencies were flooded with 18 petitions requesting a longer comment period. Those were filed by Democrats, environmentalists, public health groups and a trade association representing automakers.

Thirty-two Democratic senators had requested 60 more days, citing the proposal’s complexity (Greenwire, Sept. 11). Eighteen Democratic attorneys general also asked for the extension (Greenwire, Aug. 28).

EPA and NHTSA last month outlined a series of options for the Obama-era clean car rules. The administration’s preferred option was freezing fuel economy targets at 2020 levels through 2026, rather than increasing their stringency each year as President Obama had envisioned.

The agencies are holding the first public hearing on the cars proposal today in Fresno, Calif. Fireworks are expected at the first public face-off over fuel efficiency between the Trump administration and California, whose Democratic leaders have been vocal critics of President Trump’s policies (Climatewire, Sept. 24).

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D), who has filed dozens of lawsuits to block actions by the Trump administration, is slated to testify at the hearing. He’s expected to deliver a stinging rebuke of the proposal and its impact on air pollution and planet-warming emissions.

Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, is also scheduled to testify. She plans to say that the Golden State can’t meet its ambitious climate goals without strong fuel efficiency mandates in place.

In particular, Nichols plans to argue that the state will fail to meet its National Ambient Air Quality Standard for nitrogen oxides (NOx) in 2031 without increasing its share of zero-emission vehicles, according to a copy of her testimony obtained by E&E News.

“The proposal turns its back on decades of progress in cleaning up cars and trucks under the Clean Air Act, ignores currently available and cost-effective clean vehicle technology, wastes gasoline, and pumps more climate-changing gases into the atmosphere,” Nichols plans to say.

“The proposed rule also blows a hole in our efforts to meet health-based standards for air pollution, a task made more challenging by rising temperatures caused by global climate change — a point that carries additional weight here in Fresno, which is, along with the Los Angeles Basin, ground zero for the most stubbornly persistent violations of air standards in the nation.”

EPA and NHTSA will hold a second public hearing tomorrow in Dearborn, Mich., and a third public hearing Wednesday in Pittsburgh. Dearborn is a suburb of Detroit, home of automakers General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.