Senate Democrats want more time to weigh vehicle efficiency rule proposal

Source: Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Led by California Sen. Kamala Harris, 32 Democratic senators are asking the Trump administration to extend the public comment period for its proposed rollback of Obama-era clean car rules.

In a letter sent yesterday to EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the lawmakers asked for a 120-day comment period rather than a 60-day window.

“It is critical that all Americans have the opportunity to comment on a proposal of this magnitude,” the senators wrote. “The proposed rule would not only impact the fuel efficiency of passenger vehicles, but it would also harm human health, increase consumer expenses, hurt the auto industry workforce, and stifle technological innovation.”

Separately, Oregon’s congressional delegation sent a letter yesterday seeking a hearing on the car rules in the Beaver State.

The agencies are currently planning public hearings on the proposal in Fresno, Calif.; Dearborn, Mich.; and Pittsburgh, according to a Federal Register notice.

“Elected officials from the west coast region, representing more than 55 million people with a combined GDP of $3 trillion dollars, have already spoken out against changes to the fuel economy and vehicle greenhouse gas emissions standards,” the Oregon lawmakers wrote. “One public hearing on the West Coast is not adequate to hear these concerns.”

The administration last month outlined a series of options for the car rules. The preferred option was freezing fuel economy targets at 2020 levels through 2026, rather than maintaining the year-over-year increases that automakers agreed to under President Obama (Greenwire, Aug. 2).

Just as significant, the administration is taking public comment on the possibility of revoking California’s Clean Air Act waiver for greenhouse gases.

The waiver allows the state to set tougher tailpipe rules than the federal ones. Twelve other states have adopted those tougher rules, representing about 40 percent of the country’s auto market.

“Oregon, along with 12 other states and the District of Columbia, has chosen to follow California’s more stringent requirements to protect air quality and public health, as explicitly permitted by the Clean Air Act,” said the lawmakers from Oregon.

“Oregonians should have an opportunity for a public hearing to voice concerns over a proposal that takes away the ability to set their own environmental and public health standards.”

Late last month, a coalition of 18 Democratic attorneys general also requested a longer comment period and additional public hearings in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. (Greenwire, Aug. 28).