This week Global Automakers formally requested that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) withdraw the decision it made in the final days of the Obama Administration on future greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) standards for motor vehicles.   We’ve said for some time that we’d be making the request, but it’s still worth reviewing why we did. 


The fundamental problem with EPA’s last-minute decision was that it created a cloud of suspicion about the fairness and transparency of government regulation: in short, it was a procedural foul.  EPA and other government agencies had consistently maintained that a final determination wouldn’t be reached until spring 2018 to allow for the use of the most recent data.   But for reasons that have never been fully or properly explained, EPA arrived at a decision 22 days after the Presidential election, which begs an obvious question:  Why?  What changed?  Was it the election result?  And what was the compelling public need to rush the decision?  

That hurried determination abruptly truncated the time that affected parties and stakeholders would have to digest, analyze, and respond to the 1200 pages of reports and analyses that EPA issued as its own analysis of the GHG standards, which included – by the way – new studies and additional information that the affected parties and stakeholders had not had a chance to review. 

Not surprisingly, a flawed process and insufficient vetting leads to flawed policy.  We’ve seen that time and again with legislation, with regulation, and with executive orders, but it’s worth noting that the previous Administration was afflicted with the same problems, and EPA’s determination is a textbook example.  EPA’s analysis failed (or perhaps just refused) to take into account changed realities, such as how consumers react to continued low gas prices, how consumers seem to prefer sport utility vehicles, the difficulty in getting consumers to embrace fuel-saving and alternative technologies such as electric vehicles, among many factors.

EPA’s rushed decision also brushed aside the economic and environmental benefits to be achieved from one consistent national program on motor vehicle emissions, which was a key commitment made by the Obama Administration.  As it stands, the states and different arms of the federal government may be going on their own merry ways, undermining fundamental national goals. 

We’re well aware that our request is going to be mischaracterized as seeking some kind of repeal or rollback of standards, and in fact some of the industry’s perennial critics haven’t bothered to wait for our request to make that accusation.  

To be clear, we are committed to reducing emissions, improving fuel economy, and bringing carbon-neutral or zero carbon technologies to market.  We recognize the need for robust regulation to help ensure consistent progress toward that goal. All we’re seeking in this request is a thoughtful, fact-driven exercise that gets us to our goals in the smartest way possible.  

Which is, after all, what we were promised in the first place.