Rep. Issa hails delay in 'dangerous' auto mileage standards

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Wednesday hailed a delay in the implementation of increased gas-mileage standards for automobiles that has been proposed by the Obama administration. 

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Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the proposed requirement that cars get 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 needs to be redeveloped to better protect consumers from increases in the price of new cars.

“The [decision] today by the Obama administration that it is delaying implementation of new auto standards is a victory for transparency and for consumer choice and safety," said Issa, who has accused the Obama administration of "strong-arming" car companies into agreeing to the emission standards.   

"Increased fuel efficiency is a goal all parties support — but pursuing new standards that increase vehicle cost and decrease vehicle safety is dangerous for consumers and unacceptable from regulators," he said in a statement. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is implementing the emission requirements for the Obama administration, had been expected this week to finalize its proposal to gradually increase auto emission standards beginning in 2017. 

The NHTSA said Wednesday the announcement was pushed back because of rules that involve providing notice after environmental impacts of new regulations are assessed. The agency also said Wednesday the delay was likely to be temporary. 

Environmental analyses on the proposed emission requirements, which are known as Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, were released on July 9. 

"We are in the process of finalizing the rule, which, when combined with other actions taken by this administration, will nearly double the efficiency of the vehicles we drive, helping to save families thousands of dollars at the pump, slashing oil consumption and reducing harmful emissions," NHTSA spokeswoman Lynda Tran said in a statement provided to The Hill. "The rule is still undergoing interagency review, and we expect that process to be completed soon."

Issa, however, said Wednesday that the administration's proposed emission requirements should be scrapped altogether. 

“The Obama administration may attempt to further the agenda of environmental special interest groups — but placing their goals ahead of consumer safety and choice is a price too great to pay," he said. 

Citing a report from his Oversight Committee, Issa said last week that the Obama administration used the bailout of U.S. auto companies to pressure them into agreeing with the proposed emission standards.

“In the wake of a massive taxpayer-funded bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, the Obama administration took aggressive action to force a rulemaking process that reflects ideology over science and politics over process and law,” Issa said last Friday. 

Democrats in Congress and environmental groups have sharply criticized Issa for attacking the emission requirements, saying he was defending the oil and gas industries. 

“Advanced technology vehicles have rejuvenated what was a failing auto industry, and the historic fuel economy standards will save American households billions at the pump and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) said in a statement when Issa's report was released. Markey sponsored a bill, passed by Congress in 2007, to raise the emission rules to 35 miles per gallon.

“Gov. [Mitt] Romney and congressional Republicans seem committed to taking the American consumer out of the driver’s seat and putting Big Oil behind the wheel of America’s energy agenda,” Markey continued. 

A Transportation Department spokesman told The Hill that despite Issa's victory lap Wednesday, the emission standards are likely to be finalized "very soon."