By Mark Coryell
A great deal for consumers and American technological leadership is in jeopardy because of the White House’s antipathy toward government agencies that address climate change. U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s threats to devastate his agency’s workforce and codify the proposed 2018 budget change the priorities and the role science plays in the defense of Americans’ health, lives, and natural environment.
During President Barack Obama’s tenure, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency worked with U.S. automakers to set aggressive, yet achievable, near-future efficiency standards for motor vehicle fuel economy. These standards save consumers money through reduced fuel costs and position American carmakers and their workforce as world leaders in new technologies sold worldwide.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, historic fuel efficiency standards were supported by major automakers in 2012 and have a proven track record of success. Vehicles have been getting cleaner each year even as sales have exceeded expectations. Consumers benefit as fuel savings surpass the higher cost of new technology.
EPA’s analysis projects that the improved rules will save six billion tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, making it the single most effective action taken by any country to address global climate change. Through these federal CO2 standards, Americans demonstrate their leadership on a key international issue and save money as well. Like I said. A great deal.
Then, in January 2017, the deal got even better. The Obama EPA completed its midterm evaluation of the standards and concluded that they were achievable at even lower cost than 2012 projections. EPA made this determination based on nearly 10,000 pages of comprehensive technical analysis that it has released to the public over the last eight years. I am proud to represent these federal employees in the workplace.
Fast forward to 2017 as the Trump Administration threatens to weaken the common-sense rules, and possibly destroy the EPA transportation climate program, considered the new global standard. In March, President Trump referred to EPA’s “job killing regulations” and subsequently Administrator Pruitt announced that he was “reconsidering” the 2025 GHG standards. In June, President Trump submitted his proposed budget that would eliminate the EPA’s work on vehicle GHG emissions. I believe Pruitt will order EPA staff to shut down work on GHG emissions controls, and force the EPA staff to “rubber stamp” future fuel economy rules by the Department of Transportation to GHG emissions. This would be disastrous. DOT is a mission of vehicle safety, not climate change.
The EPA is the only federal agency with the mission, career staff expertise, and track record of being able to work with automakers and force the kind of innovation that is essential to address global climate change and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. The austere proposed spending cuts disproportionally target federal workers and programs like this one by reducing the funding for the essential and specialized jobs for this high-quality work.
The work of dedicated federal employees, like those of the American Federation of Government Employees membership in Ann Arbor, does not materialize overnight. Their exceptional skill sets take decades to mature. The EPA has fostered an integral, national institution that works for Americans on solutions to some of the most complex problems facing our country and our world.
The EPA is not an undisciplined bureaucracy of waste, fraud, and abuse. Most Americans support good government. They also believe in climate change, and say that they want science-based vehicle GHG standards to be enforced. Dedicated career staff at the EPA must perform the people’s work free from political interference.