Foes Rev Up For Hearings On Trump Plan To Gut Fuel Efficiency

Public hearings begin this week on the Environmental Protection Agency's plan supporting gas-guzzling vehicles.

Opponents of the Trump administration’s plan to loosen vehicle fuel economy and emissions standards are gearing up to oppose government officials at public hearings beginning Monday.

Environmental activists, state and city officials and citizens who breathe polluted air plan to resist representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, who propose rolling back Obama-era rules. Backing the government’s plan will be auto industry representatives, who complained about stricter standards.

Monday’s public hearing is in Fresno, California, Tuesday’s is in Dearborn, Michigan, and Wednesday’s will be in Pittsburgh.

The EPA has argued that larger vehicles that burn more gas are “safer,” and says relaxing environmental standards will save companies money, making their products more “affordable.” An EPA fact sheet says the changes will have “minimal impact” on the environment.

“We’re not going to stop” battling this plan, said California Attorney General Hector Becerra in a conference call Friday with reporters, according to USA Today. “This is an issue about leaning forward, not backsliding.”

Several states are suing the Trump administration over the plan, which would freeze fuel economy standards at 2020 levels and ignore tougher restrictions that had been scheduled to take effect in 2022. 

It would also strip California of its independent authority to regulate carbon emissions in the state. 

“The idea we’re going to roll back the auto standards is absurd,” California Gov. Jerry Brown said after the EPA unveiled its plan earlier this year. Brown also warned that U.S. cars aren’t going to sell in a global market if they don’t pay attention to pollution.

To have Fresno — far from California’s population centers — as the state’s sole site for a public hearing is “deeply insulting to the millions of Californians that are affected by this,” Sean Donahue, who represents the Environmental Defense Fund, told a trade publication this month.

The EPA dropped consideration of cities such as Los Angeles, Detroit and Washington, for the hearings.

The Trump administration’s plan would freeze the average fuel economy standard at 41.7 miles per gallon set for cars for 2020, and 31.3 mpg for SUVs and light trucks. Under Obama administration regulations, the standard had been scheduled to gradually rise to 54.5 mpg by 2025.