House to hold hearing on 54.5 mpg plan

October 7, 2011 http://detnews.com/article/20111007/AUTO01/110070447

House to hold hearing on 54.5 mpg plan

DAVID SHEPARDSON
/ Detroit News Washington Bureau

A House panel will hold a hearing Wednesday reviewing the Obama administration’s plans to double fuel efficiency standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

On Friday, the House Oversight and Government Reform committee said its panel that oversees regulatory affairs will hold a hearing on the standards — as some Republicans in Congress have raised concerns about the economic impacts of the new requirements.

The hearing is titled: “Running on Empty: How the Obama Administration’s Green Energy Gamble Will Impact Small Businesses and Consumers.”

The panel, chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, “will examine fuel economy standards for light and heavy duty vehicles, and the Obama Administration’s recent agreement to raise fuel economy standards for model years 2017-2025,” the committee said.

Top officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Environmental Protection Agency will testify, according to a committee memo released Friday.

They include NHTSA Administrator David Strickland and EPA’s Margo Oge, director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality, and Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation.

Jeremy Anwyl, CEO of Edmunds.com, is also on the committee witness list.

Others that will testify included Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Scott Grenerth, an independent trucker and Roland Hwang, transportation programdirector at the Natural Resources Defense Council. A committee spokesman said the California Air Resources Board had declined to testify at the hearing.

Automakers have not been asked to testify at the hearing.

The full committee chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has been a critic of the deal reached in secret by automakers, California and the White House in July to hike standards.

Last Friday, Issa sent letters asking the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to turn over all emails between the agencies and automakers in reaching the fuel efficiency deal.

In late July, the White House, California and 13 automakers — including Detroit’s Big Three, Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co., BMW AG and Hyundai Motor Co. — reached a deal to boost fuel economy requirements over the 2017-25 time frame.

The 54.5 mpg translates into 49.6 mpg when accounting for air conditioning credits and other incentives that automakers can use. The EPA has said in real world driving the actual level will be about 39 mpg in 2025.

Issa has questioned if the deal essentially makes the regulatory process irrelevant.

He wrote the agreement was apparently “negotiated in secret, outside the scope of law, with potentially significant negative impacts for consumers.”

White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler told Issa the government will conduct a traditional rule-writing process — despite a deal with automakers.

“The agencies have made clear that they intend to conduct a public rulemaking with additional opportunity for public comment,” she wrote in the Sept. 8 letter obtained by The Detroit News that has not been made public.

In Issa’s Aug. 11 letter, he asked the White House to turn over all emails between automakers and the Obama administration during the negotiations and a number of specific questions. The White House didn’t turn over any records and declined to answer most of the questions, and instead referred Issa to the Transportation Department and EPA.

Issa sent new letters to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson last Friday, seeking emails, additional records on the regulations and asking more questions, raising issues about the potential impact on jobs of hiking requirements. He also noted that some automakers are getting rid of spare tires to decrease weight and boost fuel efficiency.

“It does not appear that NHTSA has adequately considered the impact its CAFE standards for MY 2017-2027 will have on vehicle safety before it committed to issuing these standards,” Issa wrote.

The letter also seeks emails between the federal agencies and the California Air Resources Board, which had considered setting state tailpipe emission limits for 2017 and beyond.

Issa wants the agencies to turn over all records by Oct. 11.

In July, the committee said it was opening an investigation into the Obama administration’s agreement with automakers to double fuel efficiency standards to 54.5 mpg by 2025.

Issa sent letters last month to the CEOs of 14 major automakers, including General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group LLC, and Toyota on the agreement to hike standards for the 2017-25 model years.

Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it would delay publishing the proposed regulation until mid-November. It was initially set to be published by the end of this month.

“Given the historic nature of this joint rule between EPA and DOT, as well as the necessary coordination with California, it was recently determined that additional time was needed,” NHTSA said last week.

Issa has also sent a separate letter to Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally, asking for more information on the decision of the company to stop running an ad that is critical of the $85 billion auto industry bailout. Both Ford and the White House say the administration did not pressure the Dearborn automaker to stop running the ad.

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