The Trump administration rolled back ambitious Obama-era vehicle mileage standards Tuesday, raising the ceiling on damaging fossil fuel emissions for years to come and gutting one of the United States’ biggest efforts against climate change.
The Trump administration released a final rule Tuesday on mileage standards through 2026. The change — after two years of Trump threatening and fighting states and a faction of automakers that opposed the move — waters down a tough Obama mileage standard that would have encouraged automakers to ramp up production of electric vehicles and more fuel-efficient gas and diesel vehicles.
“We are delivering on President Trump’s promise to correct the current fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards,” Andrew Wheeler, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said in a statement Tuesday marking the release.
He said the final rule “puts in place a sensible” national program that “strikes the right regulatory balance that protects our environment, and sets reasonable targets for the auto industry. This rule supports our economy, and the safety of American families.”
Opponents contend the change — gutting his predecessor’s legacy effort against climate-changing fossil fuel emissions — appears driven by Trump’s push to undo regulatory initiatives of former President Barack Obama and say even the administration has had difficulty pointing to the kind of specific, demonstrable benefits to drivers, public health and safety or the economy that normally accompany standards changes.
The Trump administration says the looser mileage standards will allow consumers to keep buying the less fuel-efficient SUVs that U.S. drivers have favored for years. Opponents say it will kill several hundred more Americans a year through dirtier air, compared to the Obama standards.
Even “given the catastrophe they’re in with the coronavirus, they’re pursuing a policy that’s going to hurt public health and kill people,” said Chet France, a former 39-year veteran of the EPA, where he served as a senior official over emissions and mileage standards.
The EPA mileage rollback is just the first blow. COVID-19 is already being used as the excuse to suspend enforcement of EPA regulations on clear water and air, and to suspend FDA food safety inspections. These regulations will never be reinstated under Trump. In fact, the Trump regime will say that industries have proven they can police themselves, and they will, right down to hundreds of thousands of Americans getting sick every year because of health violations.
And all this happening while COVID-19 is going on.