(1) Click here to submit your comment by October 2nd to the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Modify the suggested comment script below to oppose the rollback of key federal clean car standards and the elimination of California’s ability to set more stringent standards.
(2) Share your comments with your members of congress using contact information below.
Note: It is best to personalize or modify the wording (without changing its meaning). You do not need to be a scientist or expert to submit your comments.
The transportation sector is the largest contributor of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States, and vehicles are the largest source of air pollution. EPA’s duty to protect public health and welfare means taking urgent steps to reduce vehicle emissions, including GHGs, to the greatest extent possible. The current proposal will increase emissions. Failing to take the strongest possible action now will ensure escalated global warming and major loss of life and health. Maintaining the standards developed and agreed to by the U.S. government, auto makers and the state of California in 2012 for model years 2021-2026 (“previously issued standards”) is justified by thorough analysis and public input. Global warming has already set in motion changes that will further accelerate warming. Increasing emissions cannot be justified based on science, cost or available technology.
The agencies’ current proposal appears to substitute assumptions about consumer behavior - that consumers will keep their older, less safe cars longer - and manufacturers’ good faith - they will over-comply with less stringent standards - for scientific and analytical rigor. It is not clear that consumer behavior is a legally defensible criterion for determining health-based pollution standards, and it is clear that manufacturers have never increased fuel efficiency or reduced pollutants without regulation. The proposal asserts that consumers want bigger cars, yet the government does not allow unrestricted sales of opioids just because many consumers want them. Public health and welfare are the most important criteria. Furthermore, consumers’ desire for more fuel efficient vehicles that save money at the pump was not sufficiently considered, and the new estimates of fuel efficient vehicle costs are not substantiated.
The proposal does not take into account EPA’s internal analysis showing that the rollback would cost jobs and have a net negative economic impact.
While the consumer-based analysis of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that maintaining the current standards will prevent vehicle accident deaths, EPA’s experts, according to information in the docket, conclude that there will be more accident deaths if the proposal goes into effect. Even if the proposal’s unsubstantiated analysis were correct, air pollution causes far more deaths, and the long-term analysis of the deaths and illness caused by storms, fire, flooding, heat and drought resulting from climate change, along with lives saved by reducing other tailpipe pollutants must be weighed more thoroughly.
I live in California and strongly oppose the proposed withdrawal of California’s ability to set pollution standards that are more stringent than federal standards. This ability has been in effect for 48 years, has never been withdrawn before, and will be legally challenged. Withdrawal would create an unnecessarily uncertain future for auto manufacturers. The state’s unique pollution problems are the result of geography and the movement of goods from California’s ports through the state by truck and rail to consumers across the country. It is not unreasonable for the rest of the country to support the previously issued standards which take California’s needs into account, since the country benefits from receiving the goods transported through the state.
California will be legally justified in defending its waiver. The court has previously allowed EPA to identify GHGs as pollutants that may be regulated under the Clean Air Act (CAA). California clearly meets the “compelling and extraordinary” criterion for allowing the waiver. As a coastal state with desert ecosystems it is on the front lines of climate change’s impacts: sea level rise and worsening drought, heatwaves and wildfires. Limiting GHGs also reduces other harmful pollutants, which is a clear purpose of the CAA. The proposal’s assertion that the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (related to fuel economy) preempts California’s ability to set stringent auto emissions or fleet requirements for zero emission vehicles is not supported by Act’s text and has already failed in court.
The auto makers that were bailed out with government (taxpayer) funds during the recession are the same companies that have the lowest average fuel economy. The proposal would unfairly benefit them and penalize companies that have invested in electric vehicles. It is unfair for them to ask for regulatory relief now, when reducing pollutants including GHG is more urgent than ever. Science and technology both show that it is possible to comply with the previously issued standards.
Contact Information for Members of Congress
- Senator Dianne Feinstein: (415) 393-0707, (310) 914-7300, (202) 224-3841, or email.
- Senator Kamala Harris: (415) 355-9041, (213) 894-5000, (202) 224-3553, or email.
Find your Representative:
- Rep. Mark DeSaulnier - 11th district: (510) 620-1000, (202) 225-2095, or email.
- Rep. Nancy Pelosi - 12th district: (415) 556-4862, (202) 225-4965, or email.
- Rep. Barbara Lee - 13th district: (510) 763-0370, (202) 225-2661, or email.
- Rep. Jackie Speier - 14th district: (650) 342-0300, (202) 225-3531, or email.
- Rep. Eric Swalwell - 15th district: 510-370-3322, 202-225-5065, or email.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has authority to set vehicle fuel economy standards (how many miles per gallon automakers’ fleets must meet) - also known as Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has authority to set emissions standards for pollutants, including carbon dioxide (CO2), the major greenhouse gas (GHG) contributing to global warming. The two agencies coordinate so that fuel economy standards harmonize with the standards for protecting human health. Fuel economy and pollution emission standards are related and intertwine because reducing fuel use by raising fuel economy standards (mpg) also reduces tailpipe emissions.
California (CA) has unique air quality issues due primarily to the geographic features of its worst air quality areas and because goods coming into CA’s ports must be transported through these same areas by diesel truck or rail to the rest of the country. As a result, for 48 years, the state has received permission, called a Clean Air Act “waiver,” from the EPA in order set emission standards that are more stringent than the national standards. Thirteen other states have also adopted CA’s standards. They include limits on CO2 and allow CA’s zero emission vehicle program, which requires automakers to make 25% of their fleets zero emission by 2025.
In 2012 the Obama administration reached an unprecedented agreement among the state of CA, automakers and the federal government to establish harmonized national fuel economy standards that took into account CA’s pollution reduction needs and provided a multi-year timespan for automakers to gradually meet the requirements. The agreement gave auto makers the regulatory certainty and national solution they desired. The agreement was developed over three years of negotiations. General Motors and Chrysler had been bailed out by the federal government due to the 2008 recession and were concerned about have two sets of standards (CA and federal) with which to comply. It is notable that these are the two automakers who currently rank lowest in average fuel economy.
In the current action, EPA and the NHTSA propose to reduce the stringency of the standards agreed to for vehicle model years 2021-2026 and freeze them at the 2020 level. They also propose to revoke CA’s waiver, which has never been done before and will also affect the other states that have adopted CA’s standards.
The standards set by the Obama administration would avert 570 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, equivalent to stopping 140 typical coal-fired power plants for a year, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
In developing the Obama era standards, EPA compiled an enormous amount of information and data, had numerous meetings with industry and allowed robust opportunities for public input. The record of their decision is impeccable. They were also required to conduct a mid-term evaluation, which they completed in early 2017. The evaluation confirmed that with the latest information, the standards that had been set remained necessary, cost effective and achievable with existing technology. Regardless, the Trump administration has done a new evaluation and reached a conclusion that the standards should be weakened.
One of the “selling points” of the new proposal is that weakening the standards would result in fewer vehicle accident deaths. The logic and data used for this analysis has been strongly challenged both by EPA in-house experts and many others (more on this in the links below). Another key claim is that the standards will only reduce fuel use by a small percentage. But given the huge role that the transportation sector plays in CO2 emissions and the urgent need to reduce CO2 from every source possible, this is a specious argument. The proposal goes on to question the availability of necessary technology, to make and heavily weigh unsupported assumptions about consumer behavior, and claim that CA’s waiver is not legal, among many other claims that use flawed, questionable or unsupported logic, science, legal interpretation or data.
- EPA-NHTSA Notice
- New York Times
- Auto Safety (NYT)
- Washington Post
- Vox - Trump is freezing Obama’s fuel economy standards. Here’s what that could do.
- Vox - The EPA refuted its own bizarre justification for rolling back fuel efficiency standards
- Inside Climate News
- Union of Concerned Scientists - 8 Ridiculous Things in the Trump Rollback of Clean Car Standards
- Legal Planet
- Environmental Law at Harvard
- Washington Post - The Trump administration said weaker fuel standards would save lives. EPA experts disagree.