Schumer blasts EPA chief's decision to roll back vehicle emissions standards

Cheryl Sanders
April 4, 2018

A top aide at the Environmental Protection Agency, who recently received a 33 percent raise from Administrator Scott Pruitt despite a lack of approval from the White House, helped shop for housing options for him and his wife a year ago, according to several individuals with knowledge of the matter. Pruitt says the standards are hurting vehicle company's competitiveness. "We appreciate that the administration is working to find a way to both increase fuel economy standards and keep new vehicles affordable to more Americans". Though federal regulations typically require federal officials to fly in coach, the EPA chief has said he needed to sit in premium seats due to security concerns. "Obama's EPA cut the Midterm Evaluation process short with politically charged expediency, made assumptions about the standards that didn't comport with reality, and set the standards too high".

"This illegal rollback of achievable, commonsense fuel efficiency and pollution standards for cars will result in higher fuel costs and more unsafe air pollution, including the carbon dioxide that drives climate change - creating real, direct and damaging impacts on New Yorkers and our environment". "The more efficient vehicles are cheaper for consumers because they run on less gas, and so it has an effect on the consumer's pocketbook as well".

The attorneys general, from states including New York, Iowa and MA, said they would challenge a rollback in court.

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Travel records obtained through a public records request showed that Mr Pruitt spent more than US$17,000 in taxpayer money for a December trip to Morocco to promote United States exports of LNG, although marketing the U.S. resource is not under the jurisdiction of the EPA administrator. Wilcox said Pruitt was "focused on advancing President Trump's agenda of regulatory certainty and environmental stewardship".

The most recent lobbying controversy was reported last week, when ABC News found Pruitt had been paying to stay at a Washington, D.C., condo owned by the wife of a lobbyist for multiple energy companies including the liquefied natural gas company Cheniere Energy. In total, Pruitt paid $6,100 for the room over six months, a rate significantly lower than market value.

The ethics issues do not appear to have undercut Pruitt's ability to deliver on his promises at the EPA, which hinge on environmental deregulation.

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Another White House official said few people were coming to Mr Pruitt's defence, the WSJ said, although there is no sign yet that his position is in jeopardy.

Walter Shaub, who ran the U.S. Office of Government Ethics until a year ago, rated EPA's legal justification of Pruitt's living arrangements as "Total Baloney".

According to the inspector general's office, that probe was set off in part by a request from congressional Democrats, questioning whether the administrator's hiring practices were in line with ethics rules.

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In October, EPA announced it would rewrite the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era regulation that sought to limit planet-warming carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants like those operated by OGE, which paid Hart's firm $400,000 in lobbying fees in 2017.

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