EPA Chief Scott Pruitt to Roll Back Obama-Era Auto Emissions Standards

Scott Pruitt
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced on Monday that he will revise the agency’s Obama-era emissions and gas mileage standards for automobiles.

“The Obama EPA’s determination was wrong,” said Pruitt in a press release on Monday. “Obama’s EPA cut the midterm evaluation process short with politically charged expediency, made assumptions about the standards that didn’t comport with reality and set the standards too high.”

The EPA also announced on Monday that they will work with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop a notice and comment rulemaking to establish less onerous emissions standards and Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.

California received a waiver from the Obama administration to set its own vehicle standards; Pruitt said that the EPA continues to examine whether to keep California’s waiver establishing their own emissions standards.

Pruitt continued:

Cooperative federalism doesn’t mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country. EPA will set a national standard for greenhouse gas emissions that allows auto manufacturers to make cars that people both want and can afford—while still expanding environmental and safety benefits of newer cars. It’s in everyone’s best interest to have a national standard, and we look forward to working with all states, including California, as we work to finalize that standard.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the EPA drafted a “final determination” that outlines arguments requiring automakers to reduce emissions standards so that automobiles sold by car companies average more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025.

Automakers believe that the Obama-era emissions standards remain far too onerous in an era of low gas prices. Lower fuel prices spurred Americans to purchase less fuel-efficient pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) over electric and hybrid cars, which emit fewer carbon emissions compared to pickup trucks.

Pickup trucks and SUVs make up 60 percent of the American auto market, while electric vehicles amount to only one percent of domestic auto sales.

Mitch Bailwol, the president and chief executive of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said in a comment to the Wall Street Journal that he remains committed to one national emissions standard compared to California’s separate authority to establish emissions standards.

“We can’t comment on a determination we haven’t seen, but remain absolutely convinced that one national program is the preferred policy path,” Bainwol argued.

Bainwol wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, detailing how 96.5 percent of new passenger vehicles cannot comply with the Obama-era 54.5 miles per gallon fuel efficiency standard. The Alliance president added that only some hybrid, plug-in electric, and fuel-cell vehicles, which amount to only 3.5 percent of America’s new passenger vehicles can comply with the rigorous Obama-era emissions standard.

The Alliance for Automakers argued that if the Obama emissions standards were left unchanged, the domestic auto industry could lose up to 1.1 million jobs due to reduced vehicle sales, particularly impacting low-income households.

The Alliance contends that complying with the Obama-era emissions standards would cost $200 billion, eliminate jobs, and raise vehicle prices.

California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown called Trump’s decision to review the Obama-era emissions standards a “gift to polluters” in a letter to Pruitt last year.

.