Vermont vows to oppose EPA’s rollback of emissions standards

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Environmental Protection Agency photo
The Vermont Attorney General’s Office and Agency of Natural Resources are vowing to “vigorously oppose” the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to loosen federal emissions and fuel economy standards.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced his agency’s intent this week to roll back Obama-era regulations aimed at tightening emissions standards and raising the average fuel economy for cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
The regulations were adopted in 2012 and modeled after standards set by California that were already being followed by 12 other states including Vermont.
But President Donald Trump said last year that he would roll back those standards in order to expand jobs in the auto industry. As expected, Pruitt this week said the EPA would be looking to revise them for model years 2022-2025 after a conducting an evaluation of the standards required of vehicle manufacturers.
In a joint statement released on Monday, the Vermont Attorney General’s Office and the Agency of Natural Resources said the EPA’s plan to weaken the federal standards would be a threat to public health and make driving more expensive.
Assistant Attorney General Robert McDougall said it’s too early to say whether the state plans on suing the federal agency. First, Vermont will be looking to join other states in filing comments as the EPA goes about its rulemaking process.
“But after that, all legal options are on the table and we’re considering everything,” McDougall said in an interview. “This is all kind of one long process that’s going to continue and we’re going to be involved at every step of the way to fight for clean air.”
Last year, Vermont joined 12 other states in sending a letter to Pruitt opposing the EPA’s intention to re-examine the federal emissions standards.
Even if the EPA’s rollback takes effect, Vermont and other states could still be able to maintain their own stricter emissions standards, according to Megan O’Toole, an attorney with the Agency of Natural Resources.
But the EPA is also considering taking that right away. This week, the agency announced its intention to review the waiver it granted California allowing the state set tougher standards.
“It is in America’s best interest to have a national standard, and we look forward to partnering with all states, including California, as we work to finalize that standard,” Pruitt said in a statement.
By revoking California’s waiver, the EPA would effectively be revoking states’ authority to stray from federal standards, O’Toole said in an interview.
“I think that’s where we’re most concerned,” she said. “They’re essentially considering taking away our ability to be more strict when it comes to the vehicles that are sold here.”
Vermont groups including the the Conservation Law Foundation, Vermont Conservation Voters, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation and the Vermont Natural Resources Council decried the EPA’s proposal in a statement on Tuesday.
“This decision makes no sense economically or environmentally,” Sarah Wolfe, a clean energy advocate for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, said in the statement. “In the face of federal backsliding, Vermont’s leaders need to fight back and move forward on bold policy solutions to protect Vermont’s economy and climate.”
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