Automakers Oppose Congressional Bid to Bar EPA From Limiting Emissions

The auto industry today aligned with the White House in the debate over a congressional bid to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating carbon emissions while lawmakers work to pass a climate bill, warning that such an attempt to yank EPA authority "would collapse" last year’s agreement to raise fuel-efficiency standards.

US_regulate_national_auto_emissions.jpg(Photo: TreeHugger)

"Automakers agree with the fundamental premise that Congress should determine how best to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers president Dave McCurdy wrote in a letter to congressional leaders of both parties. "However, if these resolutions are enacted into law, the historic agreement creating [a higher national fuel standard] would collapse."

The congressional proposals at issue are sponsored by Republicans and Democrats alike. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has won Democratic support for her resolution of disapproval aimed at the EPA’s ability to regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act, though she has stopped short of seeking a vote as Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) pursues a separate plan to force a two-year delay in EPA activity on the issue.

The Obama administration, which has used the specter of EPA action as a means to spur congressional movement on climate change, argues that any bid to remove the agency’s clean-air authority would nullify its deal with automakers to raise fuel-efficiency (CAFE) standards to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.

In his letter, McCurdy echoes the White House’s concern and counters assertions made by auto dealers and other business groups that the Murkowski and Rockefeller resolutions would not imperil any CAFE deal. Automakers view the anti-EPA resolutions as "express[ing a] legitimate concern," McCurdy wrote, but would prefer lawmakers focus on crafting a national fuel-efficiency policy that ranges beyond 2016.

An excerpt from McCurdy’s letter follows after the jump.

The Alliance believes that the [national CAFE deal] fostered by the
Obama administration is critical to the efficient regulation of motor
vehicle greenhouse gas emissions and related fuel economy in the United
States, not only for the 2012-2016 model years, but also for the 2017
model year and beyond. …

However, given what appears to be
the inevitable consequence of the proposed resolutions of disapproval,
we do not believe they are the proper vehicles for members of Congress
to express their legitimate concern that Congress, not EPA or the
states, design the national response to climate change. Instead, we
urge Congress to move quickly to ensure that the national program does
not end in 2016, and we stand ready to work with members to develop a
federally-led process to achieve a permanent national program.

Late Update: Murkowski fired back at the automakers’ letter, describing it as a response to reported political pressure from Democratic leaders. "Statutory
authority to improve fuel economy has existed for 35 years at the Transportation
Department, and it still exists today," she said in a statement. 

Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) also weighed in, offering an equally political context for the auto industry’s letter. His office noted in a statement that carmakers’ opposition to anti-EPA resolutions comes after considerable federal investment in their industry: "We should take news of auto manufacturer support for EPA carbon
regulations with a grain of salt after the auto bailout."

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