Bloomberg News

House to Probe How 54.5 MPG Auto Rule Was Written, Issa Says

September 30, 2011

(Updates with EPA comment in last paragraph.)

Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- A U.S. rule that would require automakers to double fuel economy of cars and light trucks by 2025 was written “in secret, outside the scope of law,” Representative Darrell Issa said in a letter announcing a congressional investigation.

Issa, a California Republican who is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said today in a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that the rule was rushed and may jeopardize safety by forcing automakers to make lighter-weight vehicles.

“I am concerned about the negative impact these standards could have on the safety of automobiles, the possibility that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acted outside the scope of congressionally delegated authority and the lack of transparency in the process leading up to the agreement,” Issa said in the letter. The agency oversees both fuel economy and safety regulation.

Issa’s panel today announced investigations into the auto regulator and the Environmental Protection Agency, which wrote the rule along with NHTSA.

“Safety considerations were central to establishing a national program to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions for passenger cars and light trucks through model year 2016,” Olivia Alair, a Transportation Department spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. “Likewise, safety continues to be our top priority as we move toward a proposal for standards for model year 2017-2025 vehicles.”

Auto Bailouts

Issa also questioned the EPA’s role in writing a previous fuel-economy rule that takes effect next year, saying it negotiated with automakers around the same time General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC were getting U.S. bailout money. The timing “heightens the concern that the administration used the promise of taxpayer dollars to obtain GM and Chrysler’s support for the new fuel economy standards” in 2009, Issa said today in a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

“EPA will respond as appropriate and we will continue to work with all our partners to continue to move forward on this historic clean-cars initiative,” Alcantara Betsaida, an EPA spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

--Editors: Bernard Kohn, Steve Geimann

To contact the reporter on this story: Angela Greiling Keane in Washington at agreilingkea@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net


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