Career officials within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are disputing the Trump administration claim that rolling back fuel economy standards will reduce the death rate from roadway collisions, according to internal documents released last week.
“The Transportation Department said in its August 2 joint proposal with EPA that freezing the fuel standards would save at least 12,700 traffic fatalities by reducing the price of new vehicles and prodding people to buy newer, safer vehicles more quickly, or up to 1,000 deaths per year in the initial years that the rules are in place,” Reuters recalls.
But now, “EPA staff said they believed the plan would increase traffic deaths by 17 a year from 2036 through 2045 because of an increase in vehicle travel, rather than reduce deaths by 150 per year over that time as the Transportation Department contended,” the news agency notes. “The documents could give ammunition to environmental critics and states that oppose freezing the requirements.”
“New evidence of an internal dispute will probably strengthen the hand of California and other states suing over the proposed changes,” the Washington Post agrees.
Internal emails showed the EPA and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) disagreeing “over estimates about the future size of the U.S. vehicle fleet, total vehicle miles driven, automaker compliance costs, as well as how long it would take consumers to recoup costs of buying fuel-efficient models,” Reuters states. EPA officials called NHTSA’s model “indefensible” and its assumptions “unrealistic”, and concluded the rollback would produce net societal costs of US$83 billion, rather than the $49 billion in net benefits claimed by NHTSA, with 27,000 to 35,000 job losses per year.
The Post says EPA technical expert William Charmley went so far as to ask that his agency’s name and logo be removed from the proposal. “EPA’s technical issues have not been addressed, and the analysis performed…does not represent what EPA considers to be the best, or the most up-to-date, information available to EPA,” he wrote, less than two months before the plan was published. “This Preliminary RIA is a work product of DOT and NHTSA, and was not authored by EPA,” he added several weeks later.
EPA’s critical assessment prompted Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) to conclude the DOT plan is “based on bogus science and fundamentally flawed assumptions. The administration’s own EPA itemized its technical concerns about the plan’s baseless claims, but DOT and the White House seems to have willfully ignored much of it.”
A 60-day comment period on the rollback was expected to begin this week, with publication of the August 2 proposal in the Federal Register.