Pruitt Announces Plans to Overturn Obama-Era Vehicle Emissions Standards Could Set Back U.S. Emissions Reductions By Decades

This past week the Trump administration wound up and struck environmentalists with yet another head shot, this time proposing to decimate the federal vehicle emissions standards hike set to go in place in 2022 that President Obama considered one of his crowning environmental achievements. The Obama regs called for boosting average fuel economy to more than 50 miles-per-gallon by 2025 in what Safe Climate Campaign activist Daniel Becker considers the “single biggest step to date that any nation has taken to address global warming.”  Analysis by the non-profit Union of Concerned Scientists shows that the new standards would have averted 570 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 — equivalent to taking 140 coal-fired power plants offline for a year — and would have saved consumers some $1.7 trillion in fuel costs within just three years of kicking in.

Scott Pruitt. Credit: Lorie SchaullIn announcing the proposed rejiggering, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt was mum on details about the severity of the cuts, although environmentalists are worried they could set back progress on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions reduction plans by decades.

“The Obama Administration’s determination was wrong,” says Pruitt, adding that the previous administration “made assumptions … that didn’t comport with reality” and, as a result, set the standards too high. Pruitt’s EPA is also reexamining California’s existing waiver that allows the Golden State to impose even stricter emissions standards than federal law mandates. Carmakers have traditionally manufactured cars in the U.S. to California’s stricter standards so as not to have to run two different manufacturing processes for each model line.

“Cooperative federalism doesn’t mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country. EPA will set a national standard for greenhouse gas emissions that allows auto manufacturers to make cars that people both want and can afford — while still expanding environmental and safety benefits of newer cars,” Pruitt adds. “It is in America’s best interest to have a national standard, and we look forward to partnering with all states, including California, as we work to finalize that standard.”

And if you are hoping that Scott Pruitt will be the next Trump Cabinet member to get the axe (along with the administration’s anti-environmental leanings), don’t hold your breath. Pruitt might just be Trump’s (and the Far Right’s) favorite high-level lackey.

As Umair Irfan points out on, recent efforts by 11 environmental groups to get Trump to oust Scott Pruitt at EPA may be doing the exact opposite. “[Pruitt] has demonstrated immense loyalty, a trait Trump seems to prize above all else among his subordinates,” says Irfan. “And the outrage from environmental groups may push Pruitt’s supporters further into his corner.”

“The same agenda that’s so repulsive to [environmentalists] has drawn praise from President Trump and much of his base,” adds Irfan. “The fact that environmentalists, liberals, and Democrats are all upset with Pruitt’s actions in office only further boosts his standing on the right.”

For its part, California is not backing down, with Governor Jerry Brown vowing to fight for his state to keep their waiver so they can continue leading the auto industry towards greener and greener manufacturing processes and more fuel efficient cars and trucks.

Only time will tell whether the Trump administration can succeed in decimating fuel economy standards. In the meantime, we can all help turn out the vote for Congressional midterm elections to get more Democrats in offer to hold tight against right wing assaults on the environment and other causes so central to the welfare of all Americans let alone the citizens of the world.