Issa vs. White House Fuel Efficiency Standards

Photo by Evolve Eco-Rally. Some rights reserved.

Last July, President Obama settled on an agreement with major U.S. auto manufacturers to enforce higher fuel efficiency standards for American cars and light trucks, with the goal of reaching an average of 54.5 miles per gallon between 2017 and 2025, a 40% reduction of fuel consumption from today’s rate. The idea was to cut this consumption rate by 5% annually, and it wasn’t a new one – Obama filed an administrative notice aiming at a standard as high as 47 mpg in the same time frame last October, and environmental advocates have been calling for more fuel efficient cars since fuel efficient cars came into existence. Still, 54.5 mpg is certainly nothing to sneeze at, as it would reduce GHG emissions by 50% by the time 2025 rolls around. These emission standards would be monitored and enforced by the EPA, however, which for Republican lawmakers, seeing the EPA gain any sort of political traction can always prove troublesome. The back and forth between members of Congress (mainly Republicans, specifically) and the EPA over power to enforce GHG emission standards and preventative measures such as cap-and-trade have been well documented.

Thus, Republican congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, began investigating the agreement in August, asking the EPA to hand over “all documents and communications” related to the negotiations and a list of all participating agency officials, citing a concern over “the agreement’s lack of transparency.” Then, in September, Issa responded in a more official capacity, sending letters to both the EPA and the Department of Transportation detailing his concerns “about the negative impact these standards could have on the safety of automobiles, the possibility that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acted outside the scope of congressionally delegated authority, and the lack of transparency in the process leading up to the agreement.” But in the first paragraph of his letter to the EPA, Issa is also quick to mention that the EPA “has wasted no time attempting to dramatically expand its power and influence through regulation of the U.S. economy.” As someone who believes in climate change and sees the EPA’s efforts to regulate GHG emissions as basically benign, it’s hard not to read some paranoia into these kinds of claims that emerge from the conservative side of Congress.

This evening (as of writing this post, on Tuesday Oct. 11th), the regulatory affairs House subcommittee will see testimony from the head of the DOT’s National Transportation Safety Administration as well as the head of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation on the subject of these fuel efficiency agreements. A committee advisory provided by The Hill states that the hearing:

will explore the rulemaking process utilized by the Administration and stakeholders in compiling this framework, and will look at the roles played by the California Air Resources Board, EPA, NHTSA and the automakers. Committee members will also review the rulemaking process in light of requirements under the Administrative Procedures Act and the unique role of California state regulators granted under the Clean Air Act.

We will update this post with any new, relevant information following the hearing tomorrow morning.

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