EPA Poised to Slam on Brakes when it Comes to Clean Car Standards

by Ann Mesnikoff

Does keeping 6 billion metric tons of dangerous carbon pollution out of the atmosphere while saving up to $122 billion at the pump sound good to you? If you answered yes then you are in the 70% majority of voters who want the EPA to leave current clean car standards in place!

However, Trump’s EPA is poised to slam on the brakes and hit reverse on clean car standards issuing a misguided decision to weaken them. Rather than standing up to protect public health and the environment while delivering important savings for consumers, the EPA is succumbing to auto industry pressure.

Why is the EPA making this decision now? Back in 2012, EPA jointly issued clean car standards with the US Department of Transportation (DOT) for vehicles through 2025. The auto industry, labor, public health and environmental groups all supported these standards. With California’s agreement, they constituted a single national program for vehicle pollution and fuel economy.

Part of that agreement, however, was that EPA would do a midterm evaluation to see if the standards for the later years of the program were still “appropriate.” Here’s the thing, EPA did a midterm evaluation. Over several years EPA took a thorough look at how automakers were doing in complying with standards and what technologies they could use going forward. This review included many peer-reviewed papers, conferences, and significant engagement with the industry itself. In January of 2017 EPA concluded that automakers had technologies and pathways to meeting the standards through 2025 at even lower costs than predicted. EPA also found the standards were delivering benefits to consumers and the environment all while vehicles sales were on the rise.

So what changed since EPA’s first decision to keep standards strong? An election.

The auto industry ramped up lobbying for weaker standards everywhere it could and the EPA and DOT listened. Earlier this month, the Auto Alliance that represents much of the auto industry, went so far as to file a document with DOT that questions climate science and the health impacts of auto pollution. Rather than focusing on putting better engines, transmissions and light-weight high strength materials to work to meet clean car standards, the auto industry is undermining science.

Not only are clean car standards good for our pocketbooks, the environment and public health, they are driving investment and jobs in the auto industry across the Midwest. According to the BlueGreen Alliance, “since 2008 U.S. automakers invested $63.8 billion in facilities across the country, completing 258 investments at 100 factories, with an additional $12.4 billion in investments at 42 facilities promised by 2020.” Another report of auto industry suppliers found that across the Midwest there are a total of 151,714 jobs in 480 facilities associated with making fuel efficient vehicles. Three states – Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio – top the list with the most jobs and facilities. Yet another report, looking into the future, found that if the standards are left in place, they will create more than 100,000 jobs in 2025 and more than 250,000 in 2025 – across the industry and beyond. The savings and benefits will even boost the U.S. gross domestic product more than $13 billion in 2025 and $16 billion in 2035.

Given all of this investment and jobs, it’s not surprising that the suppliers of advanced, clean car technologies want to keep standards strong! In fact,  a recent survey of suppliers, showed 80% want the current 2021-2025 standards to be maintained or strengthened!

The EPA’s actions run contrary to the analysis it already did and undermine a fully supported finding that clean car standards should stay in place. Stay tuned for an opportunity to tell EPA to stop the rollback and keep strong standards in place!

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