August 18th, 2019

Guest Opinion: State Treasurer Urges Federal EPA and Highway Safety Administrators to Reconsider Rollback of Vehicle Emission Standards

Vermont State Treasurer Beth Pearce and a group of city and state treasurers and comptrollers last week sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in opposition to a federal proposal to weaken light truck and car emission standards that protect our environment from damaging greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants. Treasurer Pearce noted that any attempt to roll back the standards could impose costs on consumers and negatively impact the U.S. automotive industry.

“Climate change poses risks to the U.S. economy and to state and local governments and their investments,” said Treasurer Pearce. “We should all oppose weakening fleet efficiency and greenhouse gas emission standards for light trucks and cars. These environmental safeguards were recently strengthened and are part of a broader strategy to reduce harmful pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA and NHTSA need to withdraw their proposal and allow current emission standards to remain in place.”

U.S fuel economy standards date back to the mid-1970s. The NHTSA oversees the corporate average fuel economy standards (CAFE) which dictates how far vehicles must be able to travel on a single gallon of fuel. Recent updates to CAFE and vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards were developed to manage fossil fuel use and mitigate the harmful environmental and public health impacts of climate change. The EPA’s and NHTSA’s proposed rule announced on August 2, 2018 would weaken existing regulations.

Six state treasurers and comptrollers and one city comptroller joined Treasurer Pearce as signatories on the letter to federal administrators. Cosigners include finance leaders from New York City and the states of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New York, and Rhode Island.

In their letter, Treasurer Pearce and colleagues noted the financial, environmental and public health risks that an overhaul of existing CAFE standards could cause: “Based on evidence presented in the review materials for the proposed regulation and the compelling research cited above, the proposed rule would impose additional costs on consumers, increase emissions of GHG and other pollutants, and reduce the competitiveness of the U.S. auto industry.”

The EPA and NHTSA’s comment period for the proposed CAFE change closed October 26, 2018. A federal decision is expected in the near-term.

“We cannot allow federal inaction to change our resolve to address climate related risk. The Treasurer’s Office will continue to work with our peers in other states as we seek to address our shared climate change challenge,” Treasurer Pearce concluded.

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