Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator-designate Scott Pruitt answer a reporter

Cliff Owen | AP Photo

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Scott Pruitt, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to run the EPA, must address the regulatory abuse at the agency during his nomination hearing this week.

Last Friday’s decision by EPA administrator Gina McCarthy to keep very aggressive fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2022 to 2025 — a week before Trump’s inauguration — highlights the agenda-driven policy of the agency that has caused significant harm to the U.S. economy.

On January 13, McCarthy announced the EPA was going to keep the fuel economy standard average of 51.4 miles per gallon for cars and light trucks by 2025. 

The real world implications of the EPA standards translate to a 10 miles per gallon increase in fuel efficiency from 26 to 36 miles per gallon for the fleet-wide average.

McCarthy’s last-minute call and the accelerated process exposes the activist agenda of the agency that served President Obama’s radical environmental goal. 

Under President Obama, the EPA did not conduct a fair and balanced environmental analysis, but it functioned as a regulatory monster truck willing to run over anything standing in its way. 

The EPA’s announcement adds to a list of regulatory decisions spewing from the current administration in an effort to complicate Trump’s plan to reduce the economic burden of regulations.

The rush to publish the final fuel efficiency standards is classic EPA regulatory abuse.

In 2012, the Obama administration issued a rule mandating increased fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks by 2025. The goal of the regulation was to reduce consumption of gasoline derived from foreign oil and to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.

The auto industry agreed to the regulation, but it won an important concession that the EPA would re-evaluate the technical feasibility of the standard midway during the timespan of the rule to determine if the requirements for the 2022-2025 model year vehicles needed to be altered. 

Accordingly, the regulation included a provision that the government publish a Midterm Evaluation of the rule by April 2018. 

After Hillary Clinton’s loss, the EPA rushed its final determination last week keeping its standard unaltered, well before the 2018 deadline.

In the EPA’s expedited process, the agency published its Proposed Determination for the standards for model years 2022-2025 on November 30, restricted public comments to 30 days (ending December 30), and announced the final determination two weeks later.

The EPA ignored efforts to slow down the agency’s push, and the sudden shift in plans caught the automobile industry by surprise. 

Automobile trade associations and the attorneys general from Michigan and Ohio asked the EPA for an extension of the comment period, but the agency rejected these requests. 

According to a letter from the Auto Alliance, the EPA abruptly removed its published timeline for the Midterm Evaluation from the agency’s website and misled the trade group about its plans for an early evaluation.

This is not the first time, McCarthy’s EPA had its hand caught in the regulatory abuse cookie jar.

The EPA determined the auto industry can achieve the fuel efficiency standard with McCarthy touting it can be done by keeping vehicles affordable and saving drivers billions in gasoline costs while protecting the environment. 

McCarthy justified her conclusion in a technical report published last July by the EPA’s Department of Transportation and the California Air Resource Board. 

The auto industry is worried about the added costs to its cars and light trucks as well as the impact on jobs. 

It’s not clear if the Congressional Review Act could be used to block McCarthy’s last-minute push to keep Obama’s environmental agenda alive. If it can’t, it would take new rule making or a new law to undo the standards.

This is not the first time, McCarthy’s EPA had its hand caught in the regulatory abuse cookie jar. The EPA was caught violating federal law when it funded a social media campaign to support the agency’s “Waters of the U.S” rule. 

In addition, a report by the Republican majority of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works found agency staff, including McCarthy, were meeting in secret with environmental activists regarding the EPA’s Clean Power Plan aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

In some instances, EPA staff were using personal email addresses to communicate with environmental activists. 

The EPA needs a leader like Pruitt to overhaul an agency that’s gone wild.

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Dr. Tom Borelli, Ph.D. is a contributor to Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @tomborelli.