Members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee questioned a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) official on President Donald Trump’s proposal to rollback on the Obama administration’s greenhouse gas standards for vehicles.
The Committee held a hearing on June 19 to discuss reauthorizing the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, but probed Heidi King, deputy administrator of the NHTSA, on the president’s decision.
“I’m very disturbed with the administration’s rollback of fuel economy standards of 54.5 miles per gallon to 37 miles per gallon,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) said. “These recommendations that the Obama administration put on the books would back out three million barrels of oil a day, which is still the equivalent of what we’re importing from overseas.” He argued that the entire auto industry is protesting in response to the administration’s decision and that the states will divide in a heated battle between California’s emission standards and the White House’s.
King said that the NHTSA looked into a “wide range of options” on how to update those standards and have not yet set in stone their proposal to rollback. She noted that the EPA was still looking over 650,000 comments about the issue.
“I’m very pleased to have your enthusiasm for that,” King added, to which Markey interjected.
“No, no, my enthusiasm is for the auto industry to reach 54.5 miles per gallon,” he said. He stated that 13 federal agencies found that the planet would warm up by nine degrees Fahrenheit and that the seas would rise by 11 feet by the year 2100 if actions are taken internationally to combat it.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) told King that he agreed with Markey on his concerns with rolling back on standards for vehicle emissions.
"I just think that climate change aside, this is a huge step against the consumer,” Tester said. “I mean, gasoline has gone up significantly. And quite frankly, it cuts a pretty good hole in my pocketbook when I fill up my [truck]."
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) also expressed her concerns with the administration’s proposal.
"I know my time has expired,” she said. “But for Ms. King, having fuel efficiency and pollutants offset are very important goals.”