Washington Watch: Trump Attacks Fuel Efficiency, EPA

Washington Watch: Trump Attacks Fuel Efficiency, EPA

The new administration in Washington continued its assault on our environment last week by targeting auto fuel efficiency standards.

Trump directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to re-open its completed examination of auto fuel efficiency standards, with the intent of weakening them.

Prior to President Obama’s leaving office, the EPA in mid-January concluded its review with the determination that fuel efficiency standards should not be cut. As expected, though, Trump is ready to dance to certain auto executives’ anti-regulatory tune.

Photo credit: biofriendly (flickr)

These fuel efficiency standards have been a major driver of improved fuel economy for vehicles sold in the United States. States around the nation—most notably California with its huge economy—have confirmed tougher standards as a bulwark against shifting political winds in Washington. Economists say it will be tough for weaker standards at the national level to actually let car companies off the efficiency hook, so long as the major states which have them retain their own strong standards.

The battle lines are forming for another extended fight over common-sense efficiency standards. In the words of League of Conservation Voters (LCV) representative Tiernan Sittenfeld, “This is no time to shift cleaner car standards into reverse. These commonsense clean cars standards are already doing their job to protect consumers, protect our health and climate, and reduce our oil consumption. Big oil companies and auto executives may be breathing easier today, but that’s no comfort to the millions of drivers who will pay more at the gas pump or the tens of thousands of Americans whose asthma attacks will increase if Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt get their way. That is precisely why we will fight tooth and nail to keep the stronger standards in place.”

The proposed Trump budget also came out last week, and as expected proposed slashing the EPA budget itself by 31%. If approved, those cuts would be bad news for North Carolinians in particular. It’s important to remember that it was the EPA which worked to keep an eye on the health and natural resources of North Carolinians during the darkest days of the McCrory Administration’s environmental protection cutbacks.

Conservation advocates and allies around the nation lost no time in declaring that they will fight against this new attempt to strangle the public’s watchdog for clean air, water, and public health. “Literally and figuratively, this is a scorched earth budget that represents an all out assault on clean air, water, and land,” Gina McCarthy, who served as EPA administrator during the final years of the Obama administration, said in a statement. “You can’t put ‘America First’ when you put the health of its people and its country last.”

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