Trump Administration Considering Easing Fines for Cheating Automakers

According to Bloomberg and Politico, the Trump administration is considering easing fines proposed by the Obama administration for automakers that don’t meet the 2015 proposed fuel economy standards. With lower fines, automakers can more easily create cars with lower fuel efficiency by simply paying a small fine.

After President Obama proposed stronger fuel efficiency standards in 2009, automakers, labor groups, and environmental advocates stood with the President and agreed that the standards were important, realistic, and achievable. The federal regulations were agreed to by the Obama administration, labor groups, automakers, and environmental advocates and were finalized in 2012. Since then, manufacturers have sold more and more efficient vehicles, slashing pollution and oil consumption. A mid-term review of the regulations was set for 2016-2018. The Obama EPA finalized its portion of the mid-term review (after many months of technical evaluation and hundreds of thousands of public comments) in early January 2017, indicating that the regulations were working and should be left in place.

In February, the Auto Alliance sent a letter to the Trump administration asking to open the finalized standards back up for public comment and roll them back. In April, the Auto Alliance met with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to discuss rolling back the standards.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said in a regulatory filing on Friday that it will seek public comment on plans for the 2019 model year which would more than double the civil penalties on auto manufacturers that fall short of meeting government-set economy targets.

In response, Sierra Club Associate Director for Federal Advocacy Andrew Linhardt released the following statement:

“In order to keep our air clean and our climate safe, we need to put clean car standards in the fast lane, but Donald Trump is attempting to backpedal on vital climate and consumer protections. Data shows 90 percent of consumers want cleaner, more efficient cars, so of course Trump is ignoring their pleas just to fatten the wallets of corporate polluters. If Trump decreases these fines, he will put Americans’ health and safety at risk with increased climate emissions from oil use. We’ve seen time and time again that automakers are trying to cheat the system – we should be more vigilant, not less.”

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