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NRDC: Administration proposal to roll back fuel standards could cost Pa. billions at the pump |

NRDC: Administration proposal to roll back fuel standards could cost Pa. billions at the pump

| Tuesday, July 3, 2018 6:33 p.m
In this Tuesday, April 3, 2018, file photo, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt attends a news conference at the EPA in Washington, on his decision to scrap Obama administration fuel standards.

As millions of Americans prepare to fill their gas tanks and hit the road during the Fourth of July holiday, the U.S. Senate’s top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee and an international nonprofit are concerned that the Trump administration’s proposal to roll back fuel-economy and carbon-emissions standards for future vehicles will hit Americans hard at the fuel pump.

According to a summary of a leaked draft of the proposal, the administration wants to freeze the standards at the 2020 model-year level, essentially telling automakers they don’t have make to make vehicles any cleaner or more fuel efficient after 2020.

In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) set light-duty vehicle standards with the goal of doubling the efficiency of new cars and light trucks by 2025.

According to U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the Trump administration’s proposal to roll back those standards would:

• Exclude air conditioning refrigerant leakage, nitrous oxide and methane emissions from tailpipe CO2compliance standards in all considered scenarios, and proposing to phase-out similar credits from being used to comply with fuel economy standards in some considered scenarios;

• Preempt California’s authority to designate independent tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions standards under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA);

• Assert that the statutory requirement to consider energy conservation when setting fuel economy standards is no longer needed;

• Increase air pollution of nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, resulting in “increased adverse health impacts (mortality, acute bronchitis, respiratory emergency room visits, and work-loss days) nationwide;”

• Claim increased costs of fuel-efficient technologies without justification;

According to the nonprofit Natural Resource Defense Council, Pennsylvania is one of four states that would see serious impacts, in the form of increased fuel costs, if the standards freeze takes places. Pennsylvanians buying cars built between 2021 and 2025 are projected to pay a collective total of $2.1 billion in additional fuel costs.

“Only the oil industry benefits from weaker standards. The public gets betrayed with more pollution and higher gasoline bills. Our nation increases its dependence on oil. Innovation by the U.S. auto industry will stall, and car makers will cede automotive technology leadership to other countries and risk American jobs,” said Luke Tonachel, director for the NRDC’s Clean Vehicles and Fuels Project.

In a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, Carper wrote that the proposal, if finalized, “would harm U.S. national and economic security, undermine efforts to combat global warming pollution, create regulatory and manufacturing uncertainty for the automobile industry and unnecessary litigation, increase the amount of gasoline consumers would have to buy, and runs counter to statements that both of you have made to Members of Congress.”

Earlier this year, when the EPA set out to undertake its midterm evaluation process for greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and light trucks, Pruitt accused the Obama administration of cutting short its evaluation “with politically charged expediency, (making) assumptions about the standards that didn’t comport with reality, and (setting) the standards too high.”

Pennsylvania was among a group of 17 states to file suit in May against the administration, asking the federal courts to block the standards freeze.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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