EPA administrator Scott Pruitt [photo from 2014]
Despite the sturm und drang around the announcement by embattled EPA chief Scott Pruitt that he will relax emission limits for 2022 through 2025 vehicles, not much will happen immediately.
His determination last week that the Obama administration was "incorrect" and that the limits on those vehicles weren't needed kicks off a lengthy process of rulemaking.
If, that is, the reasoning in his determination holds up in court—which it may not.
It was clear from the very start there would be court challenges, by California and others, to the goal of cutting emission rules long planned by the Trump appointee and fossil-fuel enthusiast.
But as an article Saturday by The New York Times points out, the reasoning in Pruitt's 38-page determination is so lacking in scientific underpinnings, that it might not survive when challenged in court.
The legal work by Pruitt's EPA, in the words of the chief climate counsel for the environmental group Sierra Club, is "sloppy" and "careless"—which will make it easier to counter.
Chrome exhaust pipe
The Times article is quietly devastating, and worth reading in full.
It notes, among other things, that in Pruitt's "eagerness to hold high-profile political events promoting his agenda," the man who now leads the EPA has often "been less than rigorous in following important procedures, leading to poorly crafted legal efforts that risk being struck down in court."
Already, six of his efforts to roll back EPA regulations—on issues as diverse as the hazards of lead paint and pesticides, and requirements for renewable fuels—were struck down by various courts.
Courts have determined that Pruitt's EPA has ignored clear legal statutes by delaying a regulation on methane emissions from new gas and oil wells, an action that was ruled illegal.
1970s Los Angeles smog depicted in the Honda short film
The EPA similarly broke the law when it missed a deadline last year to enact new regulations that limited ozone-forming emissions.
The 38 pages of justification for Pruitt's decision that the limits on emissions of carbon dioxide from light-duty vehicles during the 2022 through 2025 model years are similarly shoddy, with "an incredible lack of numbers," according to former EPA senior policy analyst James McCargar.
Interviews with specialists in environmental regulation and vehicle emission limits suggest, the Times report concluded, Pruitt's rationale is "devoid of the kind of supporting legal, scientific and technical data that courts have shown they expect to see when considering challenges to regulatory changes."
let the games begin.