In its rush to roll back the most significant climate policy enacted by Barack Obama — mileage standards designed to reduce pollution from cars — the Trump administration ignored warnings that its new rule has serious flaws, according to documents shared with The Washington Post.
The behind-the-scenes-skirmish in late March between career employees and Trump appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency highlights the extent to which Trump officials are racing to reverse environmental policies by the end of the president’s first term.
Even as the coronavirus outbreak has hampered many government operations, the administration is pressing ahead with the rollback of a bedrock environmental law governing federal permits and working to open more public lands to oil and gas drilling. In recent weeks, the EPA has opted not to set stricter national air quality standards, and it is poised to defy a court order requiring that it limit a chemical found in drinking water that has been linked to neurological damage in babies. The agency soon plans to finalize a change to the Clean Water Act that would restrict the ability of states, tribes and the public to block federal approval for pipelines and some other energy-related projects.
The documents — obtained by Sen. Thomas R. Carper (Del.), the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee — include an exchange between two agencies that has not been entered into the public record as required under the Clean Air Act.
Details about objections from EPA staff could create legal problems for the administration’s Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles rule, which requires U.S. cars, pickup trucks and SUVs to improve average fuel efficiency by 1.5 percent each year between model years 2021 and 2026. It replaces Obama-era standards that would have improved the auto fleet’s average mileage by 5 percent a year over the same period. [Continue reading…]