Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 24, 2017

Contact: Vera Pardee, (415) 632-5317,

Public Records Sought on Auto Industry's Role in Potential Fuel Economy Rule Rollback

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity today formally requested communications between auto industry lobbyists and the federal agency overseeing vehicle fuel economy standards.

Today’s Freedom of Information Act request seeks records from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which recently announced it would reassess fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles for model years 2022 through 2025. NHTSA might even lower standards for model year 2021 as well.

Any rollback of those standards would be a boon to America’s most polluting automakers while increasing greenhouse gas emissions from what has become the biggest source of climate pollution: cars and trucks. It would also increase emissions of other dangerous pollutants that make people sick.

“We need to understand how car company lobbyists drove the Trump administration’s shortsighted decision to consider rolling back these crucial standards,” said Vera Pardee, a senior attorney with the Center’s Climate Law Institute. “Helping the dirtiest vehicles stay on the roads will overheat our planet while ceding competitive advantages to manufacturers that can satisfy strong standards in Asian and European markets.”

Under the existing rules, new vehicles are required to meet increasingly stringent fuel economy standards, reaching an average of 49.7 miles per gallon by model year 2025. But last month, NHTSA announced that it may consider a “no action” alternative that would freeze the standards at an average of 41 miles per gallon, the level now required for model year 2021.

When Congress first established Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards in 1975, the industry moved from an average of roughly 13.5 miles per gallon to 27.5 in just 10 years.

But after heavy lobbying by the auto industry, the standards remained mostly unchanged for the next 20 years. The Obama administration rules increase fuel economy to 49.7 mpg by model year 2025.

“Shrugging off tailpipe pollution underscores the Trump administration’s alarming willingness to ignore science and common sense,” Pardee said. “The public deserves to know the truth about whether backroom deals are influencing the agency.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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