Energy & Environment

Pruitt rallies auto industry on emissions plan

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt celebrated with auto industry representatives Tuesday after his ruling that future car emissions standards should be eased.

At an invitation-only event at the EPA headquarters, Pruitt promised automakers and dealers that he would keep listening to their objections to the Obama administration's rules and rewrite them in a way that the industry would see as more palatable.

"We will get this right going forward, this year," Pruitt said. "But it is very right for us to be here to recognize that what was done in 2011-12, as we evaluate it now, was not appropriate going forward, and we're going to get it right as we address it this year."

Pruitt endorsed the industry's view that the previous regulations pushed manufacturers to make cars that consumers wouldn't buy, thus depriving the country of the reduced emissions those newer cars would deliver.

"I think the focus in the past has been on making manufacturers in Detroit, making manufacturers in various parts of the country, make cars that people aren't going to buy. And our focus should be on making cars that people purchase actually more efficient," he said.

"To have arbitrary percentages of our fleet made up of vehicles that aren't going to be purchased," Pruitt said, would be counterproductive.

The Auto Alliance and the Association of Global Automakers contacted Trump just after his inauguration last year to push for changing the emissions rules, and Trump agreed to meet with them shortly after.

The event came after Pruitt officially ruled Monday that the greenhouse gas rules set to take effect for 2022 through 2025 are not achievable and should be changed. The actual revision involves another regulatory process that Pruitt said would take place this year.

"They need to be updated and evaluated, and the standards need to be revised accordingly," he said.

The Obama administration set the rules in 2012 as part of a major agreement with automakers. But the industry has argued that the rules are now unachievable, due to lower fuel prices spurring Americans to buy bigger cars and technology being more expensive than predicted, among other factors.

The Monday gathering was Pruitt's first public appearance after new controversies about his time at the EPA came to light.

Among the newly reported stories are that he rented a Capitol Hill apartment from a lobbyist for $50 per night he slept there; that the EPA considered leasing a private jet for him; that he gave two staffers raises despite the White House rejecting his request; and that White House chief of staff John Kelly considered firing him.

But by Tuesday morning, administration officials were saying that President Trump had called Pruitt late Monday to lend his support, and that Kelly made a similar call Tuesday morning. 

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