EPA nominee will review vehicle emissions rules

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By David Shepardson | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON Oklahoma Attorney General Scott
Pruitt, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to lead the
Environmental Protection Agency, said on Wednesday he will
review the Obama administration’s recent decision to lock in
fuel efficiency rules.

On Friday, outgoing EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy
finalized a determination that the landmark fuel efficiency
rules instituted by President Barack Obama should be locked in
through 2025, a bid to maintain a key part of his
administration’s climate legacy.

“It merits review and I would review that,” Pruitt said
during a contentious Senate confirmation hearing, questioning
the decision of McCarthy to finalize the determination just two
weeks after the public comment period closed on Dec. 30.

Pruitt said separately he would not commit to allowing
California to continue its own clean vehicle rules under a 2009
decision by the Obama administration.

Major U.S. and foreign automakers have appealed to Trump,
who has been critical of Obama’s climate policies, to review the
rules requiring them to nearly double fleet-wide fuel efficiency
by 2025, saying they impose significant costs and are out of
step with consumer preferences.

As part of a 2012 regulation, EPA had to decide by April
2018 whether to modify the 2022-2025 model year vehicle emission
rules requiring average fleet-wide efficiency of more than 50
miles per gallon.

In 2011, Obama announced an agreement with major automakers
to raise fuel efficiency standards to 54.5 miles per gallon.
This, the administration said, would save motorists $1.7
trillion in fuel costs over the life of the vehicles, but cost
the auto industry about $200 billion over 13 years.

The EPA said in July that because Americans were buying
fewer cars and more SUVs and trucks, it estimated the fleet will
average 50.8 mpg to 52.6 mpg in 2025. In November, the agency
moved up the timetable for proposing that automakers can meet
the 2025 standards.

McCarthy said her determination, a legally binding decision
to maintain the fuel efficiency rules, rested on an extensive
technical record. She said the rules are “feasible, practical
and appropriate” and in “the best interests of the auto
industry.”

Senator James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, on Wednesday
said McCarthy’s determination was an “extreme action” that “broke the deal” with automakers.

Legal experts have said it will be more difficult for the
Trump administration and Congress to undo the determination than
to unwind other regulatory actions issued by the Obama
administration during its final months in office.

The 2025 determination is not a new regulation, so the EPA
under Trump would likely have to go through an extensive process
before withdrawing it and could face lawsuits from environmental
groups if that step was taken.

Separately. California’s new Democrat Senator Kamala Harris
asked Pruitt whether he would commit to upholding the California
waiver. Pruitt did not say outright that he would uphold the
waiver, which allows California to pursue its own emission
standards that are more stringent than the federal rules.

(Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici in Washington)



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