Former air chiefs decry ‘reckless drive to deregulate’

Source: Sean Reilly, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, August 9, 2018

Five former EPA air chiefs from across four presidential administrations are calling on the agency’s new leader to reconsider a proposed freeze on vehicle fuel efficiency standards and other initiatives “that seem to be motivated by a reckless drive to deregulate.”

In looking at the Trump administration’s Clean Air Act policies, “we are hard pressed to find a single one that finds a different or better way to reduce air pollution,” Roger Strelow and the other four wrote in a letter today to acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

Some, like a proposal to reopen a loophole in emissions standards for high-polluting “glider trucks,” will “unquestionably lead to more public health impacts,” they wrote. Others, like the planned freeze on fuel economy and tailpipe carbon dioxide standards, “will impair our nation’s ability to deal with the inevitable hardships that are coming with a changed climate,” they added.

As Wheeler’s tenure as acting administrator gets underway, “you have the opportunity to clearly set the direction of the agency and return to its core statutory mission of protecting public health,” the letter said. “We urge you to take that opportunity and any of us would be happy to talk to you further about the issues we raise in this letter.”

Besides Strelow, who headed EPA’s air office from 1974 to 1977 during the Ford administration, the signers are David Hawkins, who held the job from 1977 to 1981 under President Carter; Bob Perciasepe, who served from 1998 to 2001 in the Clinton administration; and Gina McCarthy and Janet McCabe, who successively headed the office under President Obama.

After following the administration’s deregulatory push with increasing concern, “we just decided it was time,” McCabe said in an interview this morning when asked what prompted the five to make a public appeal now.

If anything, she added, the timing was driven by Wheeler’s recent elevation to the agency’s top job following Scott Pruitt’s forced resignation. The transition affords a chance to “look hard” at the administration’s policies, she said, and how “they do or do not match up with the agency’s mission.”

EPA press aides did not immediately reply to an emailed request for comment this morning.