Over 100 people submit comments on fuel economy plan during Dearborn hearing

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — More than 100 people asked to have their voices and opinions heard during a public hearing on the Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles Rules that were announced by the Trump administration last month.

According to the fuel economy plan, “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency propose to amend certain existing Corporate Average Fuel Economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks and establish new standards, covering model years 2021 through 2026.”

The plan would also prevent states like California from setting its own, stricter emission requirements than the federal standards.

In 2012, the Obama administration called for automobile makers to steadily reach an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 from the 35.5 miles per gallon, when gas prices were at $4 a gallon.

The Trump administration stated that those 2012 fuel and emission standards would increase the cost of new vehicles and instead argue that more expensive vehicles make it less likely that safer, more fuel efficient vehicles are driven, according to the Detroit Free Press.

During the hearing Sept. 25 at the Dearborn Inn, 150 comments were submitted from people who wished to speak at the event. Public comments requests had to be made via email 10 days prior to the hearing date.

Moms Clean Air Force Member Elizabeth Hauptman told the story about her 7-year-old son’s struggle with asthma and the impact the regulation change would have on other youth in Michigan. She said 232,000 children in Michigan have asthma, 10 percent higher than the national average.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) pushed for a focus on developing one national standard for fuel economy standards.

“Let me be clear – we need one national program for fuel economy with strong, reasonable standards that increase year over year and balance the twin goals of environmental protection and affordability,” she said. “Nobody can deny that strong fuel economy standards have kept our environment clean, reduced our dependence on foreign oil and saved consumers money at the pump.”

Dingell also emphasized that the decision made on the regulations would impact the automobile industry in Michigan for years to come.

“The administration has proposed several options, with the most unacceptable being the flatlining of fuel economy standards,” she said. “Flatlining standards is harmful to American leadership and innovation, as well as the environment. Additionally, proposing to revoke California’s waiver is not helpful to achieving a negotiated solution to this issue.”

She added that a consensus should be reached on one national program for fuel economy because it would be essential for the automobile industry and environment. Dingell also said the standards should be set through 2030.

“The next step in this process is critical,” she said. “We need all stakeholders, including California automakers, environmentalists and the administration to stay at the table and reach consensus on standards that meet the dual goals of environmental protection and affordability.

“We all have to work together to ensure strong, workable standards that protect jobs and the environment and keep pace with innovation and technology so the United States remains competitive.”

Other hearings were held in Sept. 24 Fresno, Calif., and Sept. 26 Pittsburgh, Pa., regarding the same fuel economy plan.

The hearings were scheduled after the Trump administration denied a request for an extension on public comment to 120 days, but allowed for an extension to Oct. 26. Requests were sent in by Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., Toyota Motor Corp. and 32 Democratic U.S. senators, according to the Detroit Free Press.

To submit a written comment on the fuel economy proposals by Oct. 26 to Docket EPA-HQ-OAR-2018-0283 go to www.regulations.gov.

(Zeinab Najm can be reached at zeinabnajm92@gmail.com.)