House Warned Against “EPA Power Grab of Breathtaking Proportions”

Washington, DC, October 12, 2011 –  In the aftermath of a recent deal between the Obama administration and automakers to force higher fuel economy standards on “light duty vehicles,” the House Oversight and Government Reform chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is holding a Wednesday hearing to question the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to impose those costly new standards.

“The Environmental Protection Agency is carrying out a power grab of breathtaking proportions,” said CEI Senior Fellow Marlo Lewis, in written testimony submitted to the committee.

EPA is regulating fuel economy and determining national policy on climate change. EPA claims that in doing so it is merely implementing the Clean Air Act. But, Lewis notes in his testimony, the Clean Air Act was enacted in 1970, “almost two decades before global warming emerged as a public concern and five years before Congress enacted the nation’s first fuel economy statute.

“The Clean Air Act was neither designed nor intended to regulate greenhouse gases, and it provides no authority to regulate fuel economy,” said Lewis.

Lewis’s testimony develops the following points:

  • If packaged into a bill, EPA’s fuel economy/greenhouse gas regulations would be dead on arrival. That’s after almost two decades of global warming advocacy. There is no plausibility Congress signed off on EPA’s greenhouse agenda in 1970.
  • EPA cannot regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles without implicitly – and obviously – regulating fuel economy, because carbon dioxide (CO2) constitutes almost 95% of motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions, and the only technologies that can reduce vehicular CO2 emissions are fuel-saving technologies.
  • Congress, however, delegated the responsibility to regulate fuel economy to another agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), under a separate statute, the Energy Policy Conservation Act (EPCA). EPA’s actions are inconsistent with the statutory scheme Congress created.
  • To preempt auto industry opposition to its power grab, EPA pursued a strategy of regulatory extortion, confronting auto companies with the economically ruinous prospect of a market-balkanizing “regulatory patchwork” if they did not waive their right to sue EPA.
  • EPA created the patchwork threat by reconsidering California’s request for a waiver allowing states to implement their own greenhouse gas/fuel economy programs. EPA did this even though EPCA expressly prohibits states from adopting laws or regulations “related to” fuel economy.
  • The May 2009 “historic agreement” between the White House and the auto industry recognizing EPA’s new role as fuel economy regulator was conducted behind closed doors, under strict orders to “put nothing in writing, ever,” thereby flouting federal standards for transparency and accountability in rulemaking.
  • The Obama administration’s latest agreement with automakers, establishing a fuel economy target of 54.5 mpg by 2025, was also a closed-door proceeding and similarly tainted.

Currently, no vehicles except plug-ins or battery electric cars meet that standard.  The new CAFE standards will add over $3,000 to the cost of an average vehicle in 2025, according to government estimates.  The actual cost could be even higher.

View the testimony by Marlo Lewis, Jr