EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announces rollback of Obama-era auto fuel efficiency, emissions standards

The policy change comes at Pruitt faces ethics questions.

April 3, 2018, 12:05 PM

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced today that his agency was rolling back Obama-era fuel efficiency and emissions standards for automobiles, calling the move another step in President Trump’s “regulatory agenda.”

“Those standards are inappropriate and should be revised,” Pruitt said at the EPA.

The change in policy relaxes fuel efficiency and emissions standards for vehicles manufactured between 2022 and 2025. Pruitt did not outline any new standards, saying they are still under evaluation.

Current greenhouse gas regulations, which went into effect shortly before President Trump took office, require automakers to roughly double fuel economy to more than 50 miles per gallon. The EPA says that standard would be replaced by one developed in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“It is very right for us to be here to recognize that what was done in 2011 and 2012, as we evaluate now, is not appropriate going forward and we’re going to get it right,” Pruitt said.

The agency also plans to "re-examine" a waiver that allows California to set stricter standards than federally mandated.

The auto industry applauded the rollback, arguing that Obama-era standards would have proved costly. But Democrats were quick to criticize the decision.

“EPA Administrator Pruitt’s decision to begin rolling back fuel economy standards is a victory for big oil and major corporations at the expense of American consumers and clean air for our kids,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. “As usual, the administration sides with big, powerful special interests over the interests of average American families, who will pay the price for lower miles per gallon and dirtier air.”

The attorneys general of California and New York have threatened legal action, and the chair of the California Air Resources Board, which determined California’s standards, warned the decision will degrade air quality and undermine automakers’ “regulatory certainty.”

The EPA announcement comes as Pruitt faces a series of ethics questions. The White House has launched a formal inquiry into Pruitt’s living situation when he first moved to Washington, D.C., last year. As first reported by ABC News last week, Pruitt rented a single bedroom in a Capitol Hill townhouse partly owned by Vicki Hart, the wife of energy lobbyist J. Steven Hart.

The rental agreement allowed Pruitt to pay $50 a night for use of the condo on the nights he stayed there. According to Bloomberg, he paid more than $6,000.

At the EPA Tuesday, Pruitt ignored reporters’ questions about whether he still maintains Trump’s confidence. The president spoke with Pruitt by phone Monday night and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly phoned Pruitt this morning, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox has said the arrangement was not a gift and the lease was “consistent with federal ethics regulations.” But Democrats and ethics groups have raised concerns about the agreement. Pruitt has previously come under fire after the EPA spent more than $118,000 on his flights, many of them in first class.

“I don’t know how you survive this one,” former New Jersey governor and ABC News contributor Chris Christie told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” Sunday.

ABC News' Erin Dooley, Alex Mallin, Matt Mosk and John Santucci contributed to this report.

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