Democrats suggest EPA chief misled on vehicle emissions rollback

Democrats suggest EPA chief misled on vehicle emissions rollback
© Stefani Reynolds

Democrats are asking Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy: Trump officials propose overhaul of environmental rule for federal forests | GOP pollster warns party over climate stance | Roundup ingredient found in cereals Overnight Energy: Trump officials propose overhaul of environmental rule for federal forests | GOP pollster warns party over climate stance | Roundup ingredient found in cereals Roundup ingredient found in cereals marketed toward kids: study MORE to turn over documents tied to the agency’s proposal to roll back emissions standards for vehicles, suggesting he made misleading statements on the topic.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneTop Trump health official warned against controversial ObamaCare changes in private memo Top Trump health official warned against controversial ObamaCare changes in private memo First major 'Medicare for All' hearing sharpens attacks on both sides MORE (D-N.J.) and Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperBipartisan senators propose forcing EPA to set drinking water standard for 'forever chemicals' Bipartisan senators propose forcing EPA to set drinking water standard for 'forever chemicals' Overnight Energy: Prosecutors drop charges over Flint water crisis | US blames Iran for attack on oil tankers | Air Force diverted M for chemical cleanup costs | Criminal cases referred by Interior at near 25-year low MORE (Del.), the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the request was “in light of numerous comments from Administrator Wheeler, including statements made to Congress, that plainly contradict data presented to him by EPA’s own experts.”

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"Despite the fact that you were briefed on these concerns before the rule was proposed, you have continued to make assertions about the proposal that you must know do not reflect the views of EPA's expert staff," the lawmakers wrote. 

The EPA’s controversial proposal would freeze emissions standards set by the Obama administration in 2020 rather than have them tighten into 2026. Vehicle manufacturers oppose the plan, and the proposal has sparked a lawsuit with California, with the state threatening to enact other tough measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

An EPA spokesperson told The Hill when asked to comment on the letter that the agency "will respond through the proper channels."

In a letter to the agencythe Democrats homed in on one particular comment Wheeler made to Congress in April.

“I have been told by my staff that the CO2 reductions, the impact of the CO2 reductions are pretty similar to what the Obama administration proposal would have received under their — would have gotten under their proposal. Because the Obama proposal had a number of exemptions and off-ramps. And the car, automobile manufacturers aren’t complying with the Obama standards today,” Wheeler told the House Energy and Commerce Committee then.

The legislators said that was demonstrably false.

“These and other statements like it are remarkable since analysis in the proposed rule clearly demonstrates that carbon pollution will increase by 8 billion tons during this century if the Trump Administration proposal is finalized,” they wrote in the letter.

The Democrats argued that the only discernible purpose for the proposed rollback is to increase the profits of the oil industry and said the request for documents was to shed light on how outside groups may have influenced the agency.

The two are asking the agency to turn over a number of materials, including briefing slides prepared by EPA staff, a list of meetings held with a number of fuel industry and conservative groups and any correspondence between them and political appointees.

The legislators also ask for information presented to Bill Wehrum, the head of EPA’s air office and a former lobbyist who Democrats have probed on a number of issues.