Until recently, the automobile industry’s work with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on fuel economy standards had been a great example of how a federal agency and a regulated industry can put politics aside and work together toward a common goal.
Today, the EPA chose to make it political.
The agency jammed through a midnight regulation locking in fuel economy standards for automobiles 14 months before it was supposed to actually complete the rule, relying instead on outdated data. The agency also drastically cut short the opportunity for meaningful public comment and technical review, giving stakeholders less than 30 days from publication in the Federal Register. The EPA also appears to have skipped federal oversight or review by the Office of Management and Budget and excluded the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has been issuing joint fuel economy rules with the EPA since the late 2000s.
The fuel economy and greenhouse gas rules were supposed to be a shining example of how the EPA, other federal agencies, states and the industry can work together to drive environmental progress, technological innovation and economic growth. While more work was, and is, needed to fully realize that vision, the EPA had a chance to ride off into the sunset having built the framework for a collaborative model that could have lasted several more administrations. Instead, it chose politics.
A lot will be made in the coming weeks about the transition to new leadership at the EPA. The NAM released a seven-figure, multistate paid advertising campaign to support the nomination of Okla. Attorney General Scott Pruitt for EPA administrator. When manufacturers and others note their optimism at the prospect of more balance, better process and more reasonable outcomes, it’s actions like today’s by the EPA that motivate a lot of those feelings.