Andrew J. Yamamoto, Esq., Editor, Scott D. Pinsky, Esq., Environmental Law Editor, InternationalMosaic.com have submitted comments on the “Draft EIS for the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for MY 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks” (https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=NHTSA-2017-0069-0178)
[Although there were some technical problems submitting today’s comments, they were in substance as follows.]
Both individually and as editors, the editors of InternationalMosaic.com object to the Draft EIS for proposed degradation of future mileage standards (Proposed Repeal) for, inter alia, the following reasons.
(1) The DEIS systematically understates the risks of the Proposed Repeal. At a minimum, the DEIS should concede that the action will increase emissions of climate changing gases and cumulative effect of the repeal may be the increase in catastrophic weather events like Hurricanes, Florence, Harvey and Maria. With respect to Harvey, Wikipedia says: “Warmer air can hold more water vapor, in accordance with the Clausius–Clapeyron relation, and there has been a global increase of daily rainfall records. Regional sea surface temperatures around Houston have risen around 0.5 °C (0.9 °F) in recent decades, which caused a 3–5% increase in moisture in the atmosphere. This had the effect of allowing Harvey to strengthen more than expected. The water temperature of the Gulf of Mexico was above average for this time of the year, and likely to be a factor in Harvey’s impact. Within a week of Harvey, Hurricane Irma formed in the eastern Atlantic, due to the similar conditions involving unusually warm seawater. Some scientists fear this may be becoming a ‘new normal’. Also higher sea-water temperatures can make hurricanes more devastating.
“The slow movement of Harvey over Texas allowed the storm to drop prolonged heavy rains on the state, as has also happened with earlier storms.[ Harvey’s stalled position was due to weak prevailing winds linked to a greatly expanded subtropical high pressure system over much of the US at the time, which had pushed the jet stream to the north. Research and model simulations have indicated an association between this pattern and human-caused climate change (internal links omitted).” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Harvey#Climate_change
(2) The DEIS is fatally flawed (and must be replaced with a new draft EIS) because it does not consider any alternatives that improve vehicle gas mileage more than the present set of standards. Instead, the DEIS only considers the “no project option” and seven alternatives that ratchet up the production of climate changing gases. The attached July 2012 final EIS for the current system expressly considered a reasonable pro-climate option. See page 2-14. In view of last year’s hurricanes Harvey and Maria and today’s Florence, both the NEPA and common sense require NHTSA to fully and publicly consider a few options that require at least a seven annual percent improvement in vehicle fleet mileage.
(3) The DEIS is fatally flawed (and must be replaced with a new draft EIS) because it does not consider any market-based alternatives (e.g., a “cap and trade” type option). See Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emissions_trading (discussing “cap and trade” systems).
(4) The ongoing Hurricane (now storm) Florence also provides new evidence that must be considered in a new draft EIS. On September 13, 2018, the Washington Post reported: “In the case of Hurricane Florence and the Carolinas, some six inches of the coming storm surge is attributable to climate change because sea levels have risen in the past 100 years or so.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/energy-environment/2018/09/13/no-brainer-climate-change-has-made-hurricane-florence-worse/?for-guid=4264d5f5-26bb-e511-8a53-90b11c3d639b&utm_campaign=narrative&utm_medium=email&utm_source=usatoday-Climate%20Point&utm_term=.16474520865a
(5) The EPA plans to allow well owners to increase their release of methane, a potent climate change chemical. See EPA Announces Proposal to Roll Back Obama-Era Rules on Methane Emissions, Wall Street Journal, September 15, 2018. https://www.wsj.com/articles/epa-announces-proposal-to-rollback-obama-era-rules-on-methane-emissions-1536702464 Given that the methane decision will impact the climate in a manner similar to vehicle emissions, the new DEIS must consider the cumulative effects of the vehicle emission and methane rules. Truth be told, the DEIS, and the EIS for every major federal action that will increase the production or release of climate changing elements or compounds, must fully analyze and disclose the cumulative effect of the action when aggregated with the effect of all other human activities
(6) The DEIS improperly fails to disclose the serious cost to American consumers that will result from worsened fuel mileage. EPA estimates that, if its preferred plan is adopted, an extra 206 billion gallons of fuel will be used from 2010 to 2050. DEIS, page S-6. While fuel costs vary, and assuming each gallon costs 4 dollars and assuming zero climate impact, the proposed action would cost 824 billion dollars.
Cf. U.S. Energy Information Administration, Weekly Retail Gasoline and Diesel Prices, https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_pri_gnd_dcus_y05la_w.htm (survey L.A. prices).
(7) The DEIS should disclose that EPA’s proposed regulatory rollback will not improve vehicle safety. Washington Post, August 15, 2018, “The Trump administration said weaker fuel standards would save lives. EPA experts disagree” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/energy-environment/2018/08/15/trump-administration-said-weaker-fuel-standards-would-save-lives-epa-experts-disagree/?utm_term=.ad4d6c40a73a) ‘ To quote “EPA’s internal analysis[,] …freezing the Obama-era rules would lead to slightly more fatalities (seven for every trillion miles driven), cost jobs, and in economic terms, have a net negative impact of $83 billion.” Obviously, both the proposed Regulatory Rollback and the DEIS should be withdrawn.