White House Plan Virtually Eliminates Funding for EPA Emissions Testing
The Trump administration’s current plan for the Environmental Protection Agency budget removes nearly all funding for vehicle emissions testing. Proposed cuts to the EPA’s budget would eliminate 99 percent of the agency’s $48 million in funding for vehicle testing, shouldering automakers with increased fees to split the difference.
However, former head of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality Margo Oge is claiming that such a large cut would force the agency into “pretty much shutting down the testing lab” regardless of corporate contributions.
EPA spokesman John Konkus was unwilling to say how the cuts might affect vehicle testing. “We know we can effectively serve the taxpayers and protect the environment. While many in Washington insist on greater spending, EPA is focused on greater value and real results,” Konkus stated.
We already knew that the proposal would also eliminate roughly 168 of EPA’s 304 full-time emission jobs through budgetary constraints. A document released online by the Washington Post in late March outlined specific cuts to the agency’s federal funding and has since been verified by unnamed EPA officials speaking with Reuters.
While the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers pushed for a review of the current emission guidelines, the possibility of the EPA’s certification program’s elimination has the lobby group feeling less enthused. Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance, said automakers were extremely concerned that the cuts could delay certification of new vehicles “and getting products to consumers.”
There’s also the matter of catching companies that attempt to deceive environmental regulations. In 2015, Volkswagen Group was busted for emissions cheating after getting away with it for years. While the initial discovery came from a smaller lab in West Virginia, the EPA was tasked with extensive testing to verify claims and build a case for its enforcement arm to come after VW.
Janet McCabe, a former EPA official under the Obama administration, said that companies that adhere to the rules will be at a disadvantage without an effective testing program. Furthermore, there is no way to enforce those rules if the EPA cannot conduct research via testing — giving business less incentives to comply. “We know that a little bit of cheating can mean a lot of air pollution,” McCabe said.
EPA officials have recently investigated Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Daimler AG over similar diesel emission concerns. As well, there are numerous examples of the agency stopping automakers from overstating fuel efficiency on window stickers in the past decade.
The White House’s budget plan would also cut $44 million — or 87 percent — of air, climate, and energy research from the Office of Research and Development. Roughly 224 additional employees would be dismissed due to defunding of the EPA’s Climate Protection Program. Research partnerships aimed to reduce fuel costs, alternative fuel source testing, and even a Great Lakes infrastructure initiative are also on the chopping block. In total, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and his team propose to trim $2.5 billion from the agency’s spending next year and lay off around 25 percent of its current employees.
The administration plans to release a fully detailed budget plan in May.
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