An expected decision by President Donald Trump’s administration has led to condemnation from Pennsylvania officials and environmental groups.
According to multiple media reports, the Trump administration is expected to propose freezing federal vehicle efficiency standards at 2020 levels for cars and light trucks over the next six years. The reporting also indicates that the administration will challenge states, like California, who want to set their own fuel-efficiency standards.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that a 2016 federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study found that strict fuel-efficiency standards would end up cutting down on consumers’ costs while taking dangerous older vehicles off the roads. The Trump administration is expected to make the case that the fuel-efficiency targets will boost the price of vehicles.
“If EPA follows through with these planned changes, it will hurt Pennsylvanians’ lungs and their wallets,” said Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Pennsylvania has made great strides in improving our air quality, and these rules would undercut that progress, as well as hamstring economic growth in new technologies.”
“Clean cars are a triple win for Pennsylvanians because they’re good for our health, save us money in our pocketbooks, and protect our environment,” said PennEnvironment Executive Director David Masur. “We need to be putting the pedal to the metal and promote more clean cars and fuel efficiency, not putting the brakes on a successful and time-tested policy.”
The Natural Resource Defense Council noted in a statement that Pennsylvania will be impacted by a freeze in standards, including an estimated $2.1 billion in additional fuel costs for consumers who buy new cars built between 2021 and 2025.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health estimates that transportation contributes to nearly a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions in the state and that pollution can trigger medical emergencies, including asthma attacks. Statewide, asthma-related illnesses cost the Pennsylvania economy $2.6 billion every year.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro noted that he opposes the freezing of standards and that residents have a “constitutional right to clean air and pure water.”
While California currently has the authority under the Clean Air Act to set their own fuel-efficiency standards, Pennsylvania officials concede they do have the authority to set fuel-efficiency standards in the Keystone State but that they do follow California’s regulations. The number of states that follow California’s standards means the auto industry follows suit when designing vehicles.
Trump administration officials plan to target California and challenge its ability to set its own fuel-efficiency standards.
On Wednesday, acting EPA Chief Andrew Wheeler told reporters he wanted to meet with California officials to address their concerns, according to the Associated Press.
Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit with 17 other states in spring against the Trump administration asking federal courts to halt the plan to freeze fuel-efficiency standards.
“The Wolf administration is not going to stand idly by while President Trump and the EPA try to make our air quality worse. DEP and Attorney General Josh Shapiro have both signed on to a lawsuit challenging these rules, and will keep fighting for cleaner air,” said McDonnell.