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Will New EPA Chief Continue Rollback of Clean Car Standards?

The cost of gasoline in Iowa averages $2.79 per gallon this summer, which is 53 cents higher than one year ago. (registration.org)
The cost of gasoline in Iowa averages $2.79 per gallon this summer, which is 53 cents higher than one year ago. (registration.org)
July 9, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa — At the Environmental Protection Agency, a new acting administrator takes over for Scott Pruitt today. But big regulatory rollbacks that Pruitt set in motion - including vehicle mileage standards - are still a major concern for environmental groups and others.

The Obama-era standards required new cars and light trucks built after 2025 to get about 50 miles per gallon. That would mean going twice as far on a gallon of gas as they do now, and eliminating 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

Iowa State Sen. Rob Hogg, a Cedar Rapids Democrat, has advocated for clean, renewable energy, and said clean car standards are important for the environment, national security and drivers.

"And the reason is because economically, we need people to use less oil to keep oil prices down so we can have a strong economy,” Hogg said.

Assistant EPA chief - and former coal-industry lobbyist - Andrew Wheeler succeeds Pruitt, who resigned amid allegations of multiple ethics violations.

The agency has said meeting the standards would make new vehicles less affordable. But Iowa is one of 17 states, as well as the District of Columbia, that filed a lawsuit against the EPA, calling the rollback "arbitrary and capricious." Together, the plaintiffs represent more than 40 percent of the U.S. population.

Iowans are paying around 50 cents more per gallon of gas this summer than they were a year ago. That's a red flag for Sen. Hogg, who believes a run-up in gas prices contributed to the Great Recession of 2008, when some Americans had to choose between paying for gas to get to work or paying their mortgage.

He said revoking the standards that were already adopted puts America's economic and political future at risk by continuing U.S. dependence on fossil fuel.

"If the Trump administration rolls those standards back and actually completes this process, that will be very bad for the United States and for the people of this country,” Hogg said.

Under Pruitt's leadership, the EPA also said it would challenge California's law that requires cars sold in the state to abide by stricter, state-imposed air pollution rules. Last month, Colorado became the 14th state to adopt its own clean-car program.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - IA