Murkowski climate plan would 'profoundly' harm automakers, Dept. of Transportation says

The finding is the legal underpinning for rules to limit emissions from power plants, factories and other sources – including an upcoming joint DoT-EPA rule on vehicle efficiency and emissions (DoT sets the mileage standards, EPA handles the greenhouse gas part).

The letter looks at what would happen if Murkowski’s plan becomes law and DoT has to proceed alone with new mileage standards. One result is that California and several other states would press ahead with their own emissions rules, instead of deferring to the joint DoT-EPA standard as planned, DoT notes.

A benefit of the joint plan, the letter states, is “implementing one clear and consistent set of standards that an economically distressed industry could satisfy by building a single national fleet, instead of the pre-existing patchwork of standards that would have required companies to build separate fleet for different states.”

Feinstein helped craft provisions in a major 2007 energy law that required stronger DoT vehicle mileage standards. Her office had asked DoT about the effects of Murkowski's plan.

The letter – from the chief counsel of DoT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – said passage of Murkowski’s resolution would leave NHSTA unlikely to meet the April 1 statutory deadline for completing mileage standards for model year 2012.

Murkowski is worried about the economic effects of regulating stationary sources like power plants, not the DoT-EPA auto rule, and argues that DoT could proceed with strong mileage standards even if EPA’s power to regulate emissions is negated.

But as the letter highlights, the administration says that DoT and EPA, now linked, can’t be decoupled so easily.