Regulatory Developments

Michigan Rep Seeks to Save Vehicle Program Funding

Members of Congress continue to ask President Donald Trump to not cut EPA programs that offer particular benefits to their states or districts. One such request was made by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), who has been fighting to preserve the Agency’s Federal Vehicle and Fuels Standards and Certification Program, which would receive zero funding under the president’s 2018 budget proposal. Dingell’s more immediate concern is that elimination of the program funding as it now exists (the administration wants to fund the program through user fees) may also force the closure of the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory (NVFEL) in Ann Arbor, part of Dingell’s district.

Turnover of BOSC scientists

Dingell toured the lab the same day the news media reported that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt plans to not renew the terms of 9 members (half of all 18 members) of EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC). The BOSC reviews work conducted by the Agency’s Office of Research and Development (ORD). Members serve a 3-year term and are eligible to serve a second 3-year term. It has been EPA’s standard practice to ask members to serve a second term. An EPA spokesperson told the Washington Post that the Agency is looking at industry scientists who may fill the positions provided there is no conflict of interest. Most of the BOSC members who will not be returning work in academia.

Loss of competitive edge

“Work at this lab is conducted by highly trained and experienced staff with background in engineering, chemistry, toxicology, law, and economics,” wrote Dingell about the NVFEL. “Their research, testing, analysis, and technological studies provide critical background for the establishment and monitoring of both corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards and emission standards. Policymakers like me depend on their work as do consumers who are being protected by these environmental regulations.

“Cutting EPA’s fuel economy and vehicle emissions budget would create uncertainty, cost jobs, and could potentially allow other nations to gain a competitive edge in this critically important work.”

Dingell gets her tour

In her letter, Dingell notes that the EPA had turned down her initial request to visit the lab and meet with its staff. After complaining about members of Congress being denied access to government facilities to conduct necessary oversight, Dingell was allowed to tour the facility on May 8. In a press release, she said the president’s proposed budget threatens to force NVFEL’s 435 employees out of jobs.

“We can’t afford to lose these jobs, and we also can’t afford to halt the government’s work on creating more fuel efficient vehicles and lowering overall emissions, which benefit consumers, the auto industry and the environment,” said Dingell at a news conference at the NVFEL. “This vital work must go forward, which is why I will continue to work with my colleagues, the union, and all stakeholders to stop these misguided cuts.”

In her letter, Dingell notes that it is Congress that has the final say on spending matters, but she still urges the president to reject this “misguided proposal” in any final budget proposal submitted to Congress.

Dingell’s letter is here.