It looks like lobbying pays off, at least in the case of EPA emission rules.
According to numerous recent reports, the EPA is expected to reopen the commenting period for vehicle-emission rules it finalized in January, more than a year ahead of schedule.
Automaker CEOs and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers had asked President Donald Trump and new EPA head Scott Pruitt numerous times to return to the original schedule for finalizing those rules.
In mid-February, executives of 18 automakers sent a letter to Trump asking that the review be reopened—using a discredited projection of job losses to make their case.
The following week, the Alliance sent a similar letter to Pruitt following his confirmation as head of the EPA.
Now, reports from the Reuters news service and other outlets indicate the agency will announce this week that it will reopen its review of the emission limits for 2022 through 2025.
The White House, Washington, D.C. [Creative Commons license by dcjohn]
Under the original timetable for the Midterm Review of emission limits adopted in 2012 for the period 2018 through 2025, the EPA had until April 2018 to ascertain the feasibility of the emissions rules before it finalized them.
The agency issued its Technical Assessment Report last July, which concluded that automakers had been able to meet the emission limits to date at lower cost than expected and using more known technologies than anticipated.
The EPA's emission limits are often misreported as Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, which are issued by a different agency, the NHTSA.
Starting with the 2012 emission limits, however, and at the behest of the Supreme Court, the EPA added the climate-change gas carbon dioxide to the regulated substances emitted by vehicles.
Because carbon dioxide is directly proportional to gasoline consumed, the EPA's emission limits and the NHTSA's CAFE standards had to sync up—which they have done until now.
However, the NHTSA has not yet issued final CAFE rules for the 2022-25 period covered by the EPA's finalized rules, and it's not clear when it will do so.
President Donald Trump (Photo courtesy DoD)
The EPA's announcement is expected to say it will work together with the NHTSA to set consistent standards for the two sets of rules, according to Reuters.
Reopening the review process meets the requests by automakers and their lobbyists, but altering the finalized standards remains a more complicated and challenging task.
Automakers would have to prevent significant and documented evidence that they are unable to meet the standards—beyond that they have already presented—to comply with EPA processes on how rules are set.
Those processes require scientifically validated evidence for any such claims.
Recent claims by Ford CEO Mark Fields and the other CEOs, for instance, suggested that the standards could cause the loss of "up to 1 million" U.S. jobs.
That claim was based on a study whose cost estimates were so "grossly inflated," according to one analysis, " that they gave the entire analysis "an inherent bias toward the conclusion that the standards are overwhelmingly likely to be economically harmful."
Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, 2014
A second independent review of that study reached essentially the same conclusion.
On Friday, numerous environmental groups—including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists—released a letter urging EPA administrator Pruitt not to reopen the review.
Pruitt, however, is a climate-science denier who sued the agency he now heads more than a dozen times in his previous position as the attorney general for the state of Oklahoma.
Multiple news reports indicate that the Trump Administration has detailed plans to slash funding for the agency under Pruitt, to reduce its enforcement efforts, eliminate a substantial portion of its staff, and roll back dozens of regulations that limit a variety of types of air, land, and water pollution.