The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shocked the auto industry by finishing a report on fuel efficiency standards before its scheduled 2017 release date — a move that has critics accusing the agency of rushing through rules before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.
“The EPA has abandoned its own timeline in an effort to ram through another unrealistic and costly mandate,” Dan Simmons, vice president of the free market American Energy Alliance, said of EPA’s study.
EPA’s move comes after Trump announced former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao would head up the Transportation Department (DOT), which energy insiders say means Obama-era fuel efficiency standards will be rolled back.
“It’s clear the EPA wants to make it difficult for the Trump administration to get fuel economy standards in line with the needs and expectations of American families,” Simmons said.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has urged agency employees to hurry up and finish as many rules as they can before President Barack Obama leaves the White House in January.
McCarthy sped up the release of EPA’s fuel efficiency technical report, and will take comment on the study until Dec. 30. McCarthy will then make a final determination for 2022 to 2025 fuel efficiency standards about two years ahead of schedule.
“It’s clear from the extensive technical record that this program will remain affordable and effective,” McCarthy said in a statement. “This proposed decision reconfirms our confidence in the auto industry’s capacity to drive innovation and strengthen the American economy while saving drivers money at the pump and safeguarding our health, climate and environment.”
In 2012, EPA and DOT pushed a fuel economy regulation requiring cars built in 2025 get 54.5 miles per gallon. The Obama administration said the rule would cut American fuel costs and global warming emissions.
EPA reported in November that automakers beat fuel efficiency standards in new cars, but at automakers were less than happy with the agency’s early release of its fuel efficiency study.
“This extraordinary and premature rush to judgment circumvents the serious analysis necessary to make sure the [fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas] standards appropriately balance fuel efficiency, carbon reduction, affordability and employment,” the Auto Alliance said in a statement, according to The Washington Examiner.
“The evidence is abundantly clear that with low gas prices, consumers are not choosing the cars necessary to comply with increasingly unrealistic standards,” the group said. “Wishing this fact away does no one any favors, and getting this wrong has serious implications.”
Chao’s appointment as DOT head has insiders speculating a Trump administration will roll back the 54.5 miles per gallon efficiency standard.
Americans aren’t as willing to spend more money upfront to buy a more fuel efficient vehicle. The average car price has risen $6,900 since Obama took office.
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