Transportation chief to step down with CAFE standards finished

Source: Gabriel Nelson, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, September 5, 2012

An architect of the Obama administration’s new fuel economy standards told colleagues today that she will leave U.S. EPA at the end of this month after more than three decades with the agency.

Margo Oge, the director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality, plans to step aside at the end of September and relax with family before taking on “new challenges in the new year,” she told staffers and stakeholders today in parting email messages obtained by Greenwire.

She said she has not decided what those challenges will be.

As the main EPA liaison to the auto industry, Oge led the agency’s work on new corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) rules that will require the average U.S. light-duty vehicle to get 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025

Those rules, released in final form last week, were based on a White House-brokered deal that included the state of California, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and 13 major car companies, including the three large U.S. automakers (Greenwire, Aug. 28).

It builds on the new CAFE standards for the model years 2012 to 2016, which the administration finished last summer. Together, the requirements will raise the sticker price of a car by almost $3,000, but the gains in mileage are expected to save thousands of dollars more for the average buyer and reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by about 6 billion metric tons.

Before working to finish the latest CAFE standards, Oge had a hand in the first-ever fuel economy standards for long-haul trucks and other large highway vehicles. Oge said today that she takes pride in what the office has accomplished under her watch.

The whole program “will save consumers money at the pump, it will protect our environment and public health, and it will enhance the country’s energy security,” she wrote.

An EPA spokeswoman confirmed this afternoon that Oge will retire.

Looking back on her 18-year tenure, Oge said the achievements crossed administrations. Under President George W. Bush, the Transportation and Air Quality Office set strict new limits on toxic chemicals and smog-forming emissions from diesel engines.

“Working together, this office — this team — made history,” Oge wrote. “Cars, trucks, buses, locomotives, marine engines and every other piece of equipment that moves and produces emissions have been transformed. The fuels they burn have been transformed. As a result of our actions, tens of thousands [of] premature deaths, respiratory illnesses and other ailments will be prevented.”