Federal Agencies Finalize Clean Car Regulation Rollbacks

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) have finalized rollbacks to Obama-era clean car rules, outraging environment advocates. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh called the move “alarming” and promised to continue opposing environmental protection curtailments.

The Trump administration announced yesterday that it is following through on a previous promise to weaken fuel efficiency and C02  standards for new cars. Regulations established in 2012 would require that car manufacturers increase fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions standards 5 percent annually, but newly adopted rules only require 1.5 percent increases each year for model years 2021-2026. The administration contends that the reduced standards will lower the cost of new cars by roughly $1,000 thereby encouraging drivers to upgrade to newer cars that have improved crash safety, emissions, and fuel economy ratings.

From a joint EPA and DOT press release:

“This rule reflects the Department’s #1 priority-safety-by making newer, safer, cleaner vehicles more accessible for Americans who are, on average, driving 12-year old cars. By making newer, safer, and cleaner vehicles more accessible for American families, more lives will be saved and more jobs will be created,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao. “Today, President Trump is keeping his promise to autoworkers made three years ago that he would reinvigorate American auto manufacturing by updating costly, increasingly unachievable fuel economy and vehicle CO2 emissions standards, and that is what the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule accomplishes.”

“We are delivering on President Trump’s promise to correct the current fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Our final rule puts in place a sensible one national program that strikes the right regulatory balance that protects our environment, and sets reasonable targets for the auto industry. This rule supports our economy, and the safety of American families.”

The rule changes are certain to bring legal challenges with many in the environmental advocacy community issuing statements opposing the recent decision. Former EPA Administrator and League of Conservation Voters Board Chair Carol M. Browner had the following to say:

“In the midst of an out of control global pandemic, it is appalling for the Trump administration to prioritize this environmental rollback that will put our families’ health at further risk. Trump’s rollback of popular clean car standards is dangerous for our health, our struggling economy, and the future of this planet — it will stick drivers with a $40 billion dollar bill and increase carbon pollution by over 900 million metric tons.

Maryland’s Attorney General Brian Frosh sent out a statement in which he criticizes the Trump administration for the rollbacks.

From the press release:

Taking this action in the middle of a pandemic that threatens hundreds of thousands of lives highlights the recklessness of the Trump administration’s determination to put the profits of fossil fuel companies above public health. We will continue to oppose these efforts to chip away at critical public health and environmental protections.

Useful links:

U.S. DOT and EPA press release

The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026

Attorney General Frosh press release