Trump administration fuel economy regulations born out of flawed processes, EPA IG says

The Biden administration plans to propose its own standards, but the EPA inspector general said the current regulations hardly followed procedure.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
2 min read
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The EPA inspector general issued a report Tuesday declaring the Trump administration engaged in flawed processes when writing its SAFE Vehicle regulations, which rolled back fuel economy and emissions regulations automakers must adhere to. Notably, the rule dialed back fuel economy improvements from 5% annually to just 1.5% through 2026.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware) initially requested an investigation into the rule-making process in March 2020. The inspector general followed through with a probe and noted the Trump administration pushed the regulations through with a "lack of interagency collaboration at the technical level." The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and EPA issue these regulations jointly, but the IG found the latter never reviewed some 650 pages of the rules before then-EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed off on the regulations. EPA staff also warned of numerous factual errors that weren't corrected until after the signing. The new rules became official last June.

The EPA told Roadshow in a statement, "EPA values transparency in the rule-making process and understands the importance of an accurate and complete public rule-making docket. EPA's regulatory actions should be developed based on sound policy, analytical, and scientific foundations, and should be informed by the full capability of technical staff." It added the agency adopted "a variety of actions outlined in the report" as it's currently in the midst of proposing new, likely more stringent regulations under the Biden administration. In accordance with an executive order the president signed on his first day in office, the EPA will propose new regulations that would replace the Trump-era rules by July. The administration and EPA haven't signaled how far they'll go with fuel economy improvements and targeted emissions cuts, but EPA Administrator Michael Regan said previously they should meet the "urgency" of the climate crises.

Sen. Carper said in a statement, "This report from the EPA Inspector General confirms those concerns and makes it clear that flawed leadership resulted in flawed policies. I look forward to seeing the actions that EPA will take to ensure the agency fulfills its mission when it writes critical rules."

So far, Biden's been all-in on electric vehicles as a way to cut emissions in the US. The administration's proposed infrastructure legislation includes $100 billion for point-of-sale rebates to slash thousands off the price of a new EV.

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