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 Wheeler Five things to watch as Trump heads to G-7 summit Controversial husband and wife EPA duo to leave Washington The Hill's Morning Report - Trump touts new immigration policy, backtracks on tax cuts 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 PalloneOvernight Health Care: Insurance lobby chief calls Biden, Sanders health plans 'similarly bad' | Trump officials appeal drug price disclosure ruling | Study finds 1 in 7 people ration diabetes medicine due to cost House Democratic chairman launches probe of e-cigarette makers Lawmakers criticize EPA draft rule for curbing rights to challenge pollution permits MORE (D-N.J.) and Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperEPA ordered to set stronger smog standards America is in desperate need of infrastructure investment: Senate highway bill a step in the right direction FARA should apply to Confucius Institutes 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.