Ann Mesnikoff

ELPC Testifies to Fix Flawed EPA Rules & Reduce Vehicle Pollution

ELPC urges EPA to rescind the action taken in the SAFE 1 Rule and we urge EPA to act quickly to address the deeply flawed SAFE 2 Rule.

The transportation sector is the leading source of US climate pollution. Reducing pollution from America’s vehicles is critical to protecting the climate and attaining President Biden’s goals and our commitments in rejoining the Paris Climate agreement. Today, the EPA is taking testimony on its review of the action taken to withdraw the waiver for California’s Advanced Clean Car Program Greenhouse Gas and Zero Emission Vehicle standards (ACC) — The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule Part One: One National Program. I testified in support of this action and urged EPA to act quickly to also undo the SAFE  Part 2 Rule by restoring strong national clean car standards.

Here are some highlights from my testimony today:

Climate Action is Critical for the Midwest

ELPC is specifically concerned about the threat climate change poses to the Midwest and the Great Lakes. The region is home to 61 million people and to the auto industry; it is also a significant engine for agriculture. Temperatures in the Midwest are rising. Warmer temperatures impact public health with increased frequency of deadly heat waves and worsening air quality.

In 2019, ELPC convened leading Midwest climate scientists to author a report that detailed the impacts of climate change on the Great Lakes and the region. Climate change threatens the Great Lakes ecosystem, fresh water supplies and the economy that depends on them. The Great Lakes are an international gem with enormous ecological, cultural and economic value. The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater ecosystem on earth, containing 21% of the world’s freshwater supply and providing drinking water for over 42 million people. The available water supply helps drive the regional economy. Commercial and recreational fishing, alone, in the Great Lakes inject over $5 billion into the economies of the surrounding states.

The changing climate brings increased storm intensity, changes to water temperatures, flooding, runoff and algal growth – all presenting a significant and increasing threat to the Great Lakes. Costly weather-related disasters already significantly impact the Midwest and threaten agriculture.

Fixing Deeply Flawed Trump-Era Rules is consistent with the Clean Air Act

The Trump EPA and DOT came into office with a clear priority of undermining the 2012 Clean Car Standards, one of the hallmark climate actions of the Obama administration. They split this rollback into two rules: one to take away the authority of California to maintain its stronger standards for vehicle pollution, misleadingly named the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule Part One. And a second rule replaced requirements that car makers consistently make vehicles more efficient and emit less carbon pollution through 2025 with next to nothing standards (SAFE 2 Rule).

ELPC joined several organizations nationwide in filing comments opposing these actions. We noted that the SAFE 1 Rule not only sought to undermine progress on slashing pollution from new cars and trucks a federal level, but it also directly assaulted states’ authority to protect their own residents from harmful pollution. The attack on the ability of states to act on vehicle emissions beyond EPA’s standards is contrary to legal authority that is embedded in the Clean Air Act and has been successfully implemented for decades. We specifically pointed out that the agencies’ proposal to withdraw the waiver directly threatened 118 million people living in states that have moved, or are moving, to protect the health of their own residents and communities by putting in place strong pollution standards.

Every action the United States takes to reduce greenhouse gas pollution is critical. EPA has an obligation under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to protect public health and welfare. This decisively includes action on greenhouse gases from motor vehicles and following the CAA when it comes to the authority of states to act. Rescinding the action taken in SAFE 1 and recognizing the waiver for the California standards – a program 14 states had already adopted, and other states are now pursuing, including Minnesota.

Strong standards drive jobs in clean vehicle manufacturing and technology

A strong auto manufacturing base is critical to the economies and well-being of states where ELPC works to protect public health and the environment–from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, to the Dakotas. In fact, American manufacturers are plugged into a world economy. California and the states that have adopted the ACC help drive clean vehicle manufacturing.

Past analysis by BGA and NRDC concluded that there were nearly 290,000 jobs in the advanced technology vehicle sector. These are workers making more efficient cars and trucks possible. Across the Midwest, according to that report, there was a total of 151,714 jobs in 480 facilities associated with making cleaner vehicles. Three states–Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio–topped the list.

Withdrawing the waiver in SAFE 1 and undermining the national standards in SAFE 2 put these jobs and US clean vehicle leadership at risk. It’s time to undue these actions. Not only must EPA recognize the waiver for California’s program, but take urgent steps to restore strong national standards that will put us on the path to reducing emissions from gas powered vehicles 60% or more below today’s average while achieving a transition to a fleet of all zero-emission vehicles.


ELPC commends EPA for taking this critical step of reviewing the flawed decision to withdraw the waiver for California’s ACC and to fully recognize the critical right of states to protect public health.

Some of us testifying today have been working to ensure strong clean car standards and essential role of states in leading to drive clean vehicle technology for a long time. Back in 2009, EPA held a hearing on a proposal to grant California it first waiver for vehicle greenhouse gas standards. That was an in-person hearing (imagine that). Many of us that day wore pins that said “EPA holds the keys to clean cars.” It was true then and it is true today. EPA must act swiftly to put clean cars back on the right track. Restore the waiver and take action to put national greenhouse gas standards on the trajectory we need to fight the climate crisis and meet the President’s climate agenda.

Before I close, I want to thank EPA for holding this hearing with a video option. While we recognize that the COVID 19 public health crisis still informs the ability to gather in public settings, there is great value in ensuring robust and multifaceted opportunities for public participation. Even before COVID, the prior administration used hearings with only phone (or audio) options available, which failed to offer the public a meaningful opportunity to present testimony to EPA decisionmakers. I am sure we all look forward to the opportunity to testify safely in person, this option today is an acceptable virtual alternative. But even when in-person hearings resume, the public will be well served with an option to participate remotely.

Thank you for the opportunity to offer these comments today. ELPC will be joining with partners to submit written comments to the docket.

Ann Mesnikoff,

Federal Legislative Director

Ann Mesnikoff is the federal legislative director at ELPC, working in Washington, D.C., with the Midwest Congressional Delegation and national coalitions to advance supportive clean energy, clean water and clean air, and transportation reform policies.

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