EPA Inspector General to Review Rollback of Gas Mileage Requirement

After prodding that began in late February, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday was notified by the agency’s own inspector general that his office plans to begin an “evaluation” of the process the agency followed when it approved the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule Part 2.

The proposed rule was first revealed in August 2018 and comprised two major parts. First, a rollback of the Obama-era fleet mileage requirement from more than 46 miles per gallon (mpg) by model year 2025 to around 36 mpg. The second part of the proposed rule would have eliminated California’s 2013 exemption allowing it (and any other state wishing to do so) to enact stricter clean air rules than those adopted by the federal government.

Earlier this month, several states and automakers filed motions to intervene in a lawsuit brought against the Trump administration by California and other state and local governments for trying to revoke the California exemption.

In a letter to the EPA’s inspector general in February, Tom Carper, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, presented a list of “irregularities” in the “rulemaking review and procedural requirements” related to the SAFE rule.

In May, Senator Carper sent the inspector general another letter asking him to broaden the investigation to include whether EPA may have circumvented the regulatory and procedural requirements of the Clean Air Act while preparing the final SAFE rule. In the letter, Carper said that EPA and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) concealed “embarrassing and legally risky information” in the final SAFE rule.

The inspector general has asked the EPA to turn over materials or written summaries related to the final SAFE Rule Part 2, specifically including those presented to top agency administrators and communications. Written agency comments sent to DOT on the draft version of the rule were also requested along with the DOT staff to whom the EPA sent the comments.

Now it remains to be seen whether the president fires the EPA’s inspector general like he has five others in whom he said he lost confidence.