Top environmental protection officials in Vermont are pushing back against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its planned rollbacks of fuel efficiency guidelines on future fleets of new vehicles.
Those guidelines, spelled out under the Obama administration, were aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
"It's not a good idea," Vermont Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore said of the EPA's announcement this week that it will loosen efficiency standards. "It does feel like a significant step backwards."
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The EPA had previously wanted cars, SUVs and pickups from model years 2022 to 2025 to average about 36 miles to the gallon in real-world driving conditions. That's roughly 10 miles above today's standards.
However, those were Obama-era expectations. The Trump White House calls the standards too stringent and too costly on manufacturers, and announced Tuesday that it wants rollbacks.
"This is another step in the president's regulatory agenda — deregulatory agenda," Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the EPA, said at an announcement Tuesday.
Moore and her counterparts from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut wrote an op-ed circulated this week that was critical of that decision.
In the op-ed, the state environmental protection chiefs implored the EPA to not touch the standards.
"Do not roll back vehicle emission standards," the environmental officials from the four New England states wrote. "Give our agencies and our states a fighting chance of fulfilling our mission to protect public health and address the greatest environmental challenge of our time."
Pruitt argued that many Americans are priced out of modern efficient vehicles, so instead of buying them, are holding onto older cars that spew more pollution.
"I think the focus in the past has been on making manufacturers in Detroit — making manufacturers in various parts of the country — make cars that people aren't going to buy. And our focus should be on making cars that people purchase actually more efficient," Pruitt said.
Moore told necn Wednesday that she disputes a claim from Pruitt that higher standards are technologically impractical for auto manufacturers.
"We do believe that the efficiency standards are very possible," Moore said in an interview with the news station. "We also believe they're good for consumers, in addition to being good for the environment."
Rob McDougall, the chief of the environmental protection division of the Vermont Attorney General's office, said Wednesday it's too soon to know if the state would sue the EPA to try to preserve the stricter fuel efficiency standards.
"We're going to continue to fight for the standards," McDougall said. "Everything's on the table as we try to fight for the clean air all Vermonters want and deserve."