EPA Head Defends Fuel Economy Rules, Industry Ties On Capitol Hill

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
epa head defends fuel economy rules industry ties on capitol hill

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt spent the majority of his Thursday being raked over the coals by the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee before a second (even uglier) exchange with the House Appropriations subcommittee. The majority of the time was spent addressing concerns surrounding Pruitt’s expenditures — things like unnecessary first-class travel, a $43,000 soundproof phone booth, and his 24-hour security team. There were also discussions about alleged death threats against Pruitt and EPA staff, his overall conduct, and even a little bit on environmental policy.

Those discussions, however, saw some subcommittee members accuse Pruitt of championing the profits of oil companies and automakers over the wellbeing of the planet. The EPA head spent the duration of Thursday defending his actions, including planned regulatory rollbacks on fuel economy. He also supported the automotive industry’s proposal to abolish 87 octane and replace it with 95.

As ugly as the day was for Pruitt, Republicans occasionally hopped on the mic to gently support him. Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota said, “I think the greatest sin you’ve done is, you’ve actually done what President Trump ran on.”

For our purposes, the majority of the EPA’s spending habits are irrelevant. However, there are exceptions. A member of the House Appropriations subcommittee discussing Pruitt’s trips abroad asked about a recent visit to Morocco, where he promoted U.S. natural gas exports. “I can’t for the life of me imagine why an EPA administrator would be over there promoting energy sales,” Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) said.

Pruitt explained the trip as a preliminary meeting for the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement and had been asked to go over liquefied natural gas by an ambassador.

His ties to the business end of energy, especially with oil companies, was called further into question later in the interview. Numerous references were made to leaked emails with oil and gas executives. But, as there is nothing illegal about being on friendly terms with people, the most the subcommittee could do is accuse him of being soft on them.

Pruitt’s proposal to roll back Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards was believed by many to be the smoking gun of favoritism. But he defended the decision of easing fueling standards by reminding the panel that people aren’t buying enough economical vehicles.

“We ought to endeavor as a country to set standards for lower emissions on cars that people actually want to buy,” Pruitt said. “And what’s happened is we’ve created these arbitrary levels that has put a certain sector of cars in the marketplace that no one is purchasing, which means they stay on older vehicles and defeats the purpose of the rule.”

He went on to say that one way of helping automakers meet CAFE is to pursue a national standard for high octane fuel. Automakers have come together to push 95 octane as the new regular for pump gas, claiming it will ultimately lead to higher-compression engines that bolster average economy. That endorsement certainly doesn’t help his image as playing favorites with carmakers and oil firms, especially since automakers could already do that without eliminating 87 octane via governmental action.

The State of New York recently announced its intent to sue the Trump administration if it carries out its proposal to repeal the EPA climate change rules for power plants and has sided with California in its adherence to Obama-era fuel economy regulations. However, Pruitt said there is no plan at the moment to revoke California’s waiver to maintain stricter air quality standards than those of the federal government. But he also said the EPA’s goal was to create a single program all states could adhere to, and that he is working with the California Air Resources Board to establish one.

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2 of 22 comments
  • Jeff S Jeff S on Apr 29, 2018

    Hybrid power trains would go a long way in getting close to the 2025 mandates. I doubt just an ICE will get there without making it a hybrid. I doubt that these standards will completely go away and if so only for a short period of time.

  • 06M3S54B32 06M3S54B32 on Apr 30, 2018

    Imagine that; a stupid Agent Orange appointee, and big oil lackey calling the shots. He has no Science degree either. Anything Pruitt says is pure crap.

  • Dukeisduke They're where Tesla was when it started - a complete unknown. I haven't heard anything about a dealer network. How are they going to sell these? Direct like Tesla? Franchises picked up by existing new car dealers?
  • Master Baiter As I approach retirement, and watch my IRA and 401K account balances dwindle, I have less and less interest in $150K vehicles.
  • Azfelix With a name that sounds like a bad Google translation, problems appear to permeate every aspect of the company. I suggest a more aggressive advertising campaign during The Super Terrific Happy Hour show to turn things around.
  • Buickman GoneFast.
  • SCE to AUX I sat in a 200 in the showroom, and promptly walked away. The back seat was extremely awkward to ingress/egress, and the car was small inside.Turns out even Sergio agreed, and he was upset about it: https://www.carscoops.com/2016/01/sergio-marchionne-admits-that-chrysler/The attractive exterior hid a terrible car. Those early 9-spd autos were awful.