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EPA advisers chide Trump's plan to ease auto emissions rules

Washington

THE US Environmental Protection Agency's science advisers have rebuked the agency over its 2018 proposal to slash automobile fuel efficiency and emission standards, saying tougher rules charted during the Obama administration may have better outcomes than the plan to replace them.

Members of the EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB), which reviews major agency actions, said there were significant weaknesses in the scientific analysis underpinning the proposed rollback that should be addressed before the rule is finalised, according to a draft report circulated on Tuesday. The findings, which are dated Oct 16, were released with several other reports from the panel about EPA policies, and are scheduled to be considered by the panel at a meeting in January.

"EPA always appreciates and respects the work and advice of the SAB," the agency said in a statement regarding the report on the auto emissions rules. "When implemented, the rule will benefit all Americans by improving the US fleet's fuel economy, reducing air pollution, and making new vehicles more affordable for all Americans."

The draft report is the latest scientific pushback to the Trump administration's plan to cap fuel efficiency requirements at a roughly 37-mile-per-gallon fleet average after 2020, instead of rising to closer to 50 mpg by 2025. The administration has said the plan would lead to less expensive new cars than under the current rules, encouraging consumers to replace their older vehicles with newer, safer ones more rapidly and avoid thousands of traffic fatalities.

The scientific panel, composed of outside researchers and experts that advise the agency, cited flaws in the Trump administration's consideration of how automobile sales and the rate that vehicles were scrapped would be affected under various fuel economy and emissions requirements, according to the draft, which may be revised after the board discusses it.

The problems were significant enough that the Obama-era standards which the Trump administration aims to roll back "might provide a better outcome for society than the proposed revision", Michael Honeycutt, chairman of the board, wrote in a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler attached to the draft report.

The EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are still working to finalise the rule, which is a top priority for the agency and the Trump administration, the EPA said in a statement.

The advisory board also released reports on Tuesday that found flaws with EPA's rules limiting mercury emissions from power plants, water pollution, and rules governing the kinds of scientific studies the agency can use when crafting new regulations. BLOOMBERG