New Topic: Draft EIS for Rolling Back Vehicle MPG Standards

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.[172] 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.[173] 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.

One thought on “New Topic: Draft EIS for Rolling Back Vehicle MPG Standards

  1. We have added more comments….

    Comments on NHTSA DEIS Oct 23, 2018
    Andrew J. Yamamoto, Esq., Editor, Scott D. Pinsky, Esq., Environmental Law Editor, and Manvir Dhaliwal, intern, InternationalMosaic.com
    Re: 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)
    Both individually and as editors or intern of InternationalMosaic.com, we object to the Draft EIS for the proposed degradation of future mileage standards (Proposed Repeal) for many reasons.
    The first seven reasons for our objections are set forth in an attachment hereto (and were also attached to the second set of comments submitted on September 16, 2018: Comment Tracking Number: 1k2-95gl-ekit). Additional bases for objection are:
    (8) The mountain of scientific evidence that supports that Obama-era mileage standards are necessary has grown. Since InternationalMosaic.com submitted its last comments, United Nation officials have provided alarming evidence that the world, and the USA in particular, must dramatically accelerate efforts to reduce fossil fuel use far more than contemplated under existing laws. On October 8, 2018, The Guardian reported:
    “The world’s leading climate scientists have warned there is only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
    “The authors of the landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released on Monday say urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to reach the target, which they say is affordable and feasible although it lies at the most ambitious end of the Paris agreement pledge to keep temperatures between 1.5C and 2C.
    “The half-degree difference could also prevent corals from being completely eradicated and ease pressure on the Arctic, according to the 1.5C study, which was launched after approval at a final plenary of all 195 countries in Incheon in South Korea that saw delegates hugging one another, with some in tears.”
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report (PDF copy submitted with these comments).
    The Guardian continued: “Even half degree of extra warming will affect hundreds of millions of people, decimate corals and intensify heat extremes, report shows”
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/world-leaders-have-moral-obligation-to-act-after-un-climate-report (PDF copy submitted with these comments). Cf. https://www.npr.org/2018/10/08/655360909/grim-forecast-from-u-n-on-global-climate-change (PDF copy submitted with these comments).

    The recent UN conclusions add to the overwhelming evidence that urgent action is needed. See, e.g., IPCC, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basics, http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/ ; IPCC, Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report, http://ar5-syr.ipcc.ch/.
    NEPA requires that NHTSA “fess up” to the cataclysmic environmental consequences of the Proposed Repeal. In short, NHTSA cannot approve the Proposed Repeal without a new DEIS that fully discloses the adverse environmental impacts of the Proposed Repeal.
    (9) The ongoing production of important scientific information shows that the consideration of any DEIS for the Proposed Repeal be delayed until June 30, 2019. That will be approximately 6 months after an international conference on the issue (to be held in Katowice, Poland). https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/conferences/katowice-climate-change-conference-december-2018/katowice-climate-change-conference-december-2018 A PDF copy of information about the conference is attached
    (10) The cumulative effects of the Proposed Repeal when coupled with other known major federal actions was not disclosed in the DEIS and must be. Such other actions include, but are not limited to, the EPA’s plan to allow drillers to release much more methane (a potent climate changing chemical) and the Proposal to Limit Use of Scientific Evidence in Rulemakings, 83 Fed. Reg. 18,768 (April 30, 2018) – Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OA-2018-0259. Articles about the methane issues include: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-epa-methane/trumps-epa-proposes-weaker-methane-rules-for-oil-and-gas-wells-idUSKCN1LR2BK, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/10/climate/methane-emissions-epa.html, (PDF copies of the articles are being submitted with these comments) . The NHTSA should withdraw its DEIS and acknowledge it is invalid.

    (11) The DEIS fails to recognize that the Proposed Repeal will cost consumers billions of dollars. The Trump administration concedes the inefficiency of car engines will cost consumers $133 billion just to keep their gas tanks full (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-08-02/u-s-proposes-easing-auto-mileage-rules-california-s-authority). Moreover, according to an analysis done by the Consumers Union, new vehicle consumers would save about $3,200 per car and $4,800 per truck or SUV if President Obama’s standards are met by 2025 https://consumersunion.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Fueling-Savings-Consumer-Savings-from-CAFE-2025-Final-1.pdf (copy attached)
    (12) The DEIS fails to recognize that the Obama era mileage rules will create jobs and fails to recognize that the Proposed Repeal will cause America to forego the creation of thousands of jobs. 43,000 out of the 484,000 new jobs opened in the U.S. by 2030, would be full time in the auto sector and 49 states will obtain net job gains as proven in the “More Jobs per Gallon” report done by the independent research firm Management Information Services Inc. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/ericagies/2011/08/05/obamas-stricter-fuel-efficiency-standards-will-save-money-create-jobs-say-report/#3d6065267f8b). (PDF copy attached)

    (13) The DEIS is fatally flawed because it fails to acknowledge that the EPA has underestimated methane gas emissions by energy companies. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-methane/u-s-oil-gas-system-methane-leaks-larger-than-epa-estimates-study-idUSKBN1JH2TP (PDF copy attached). This error undercuts and invalidates DEIS because DEIS understates the climate change impacts of the Proposed Repeal by ignoring the repeal’s climate change impact by increasing fossil fuel extraction (the consequences of which are in addition to those of increased vehicle emissions).
    (14) Hurricane Michael’s destruction this fall shows the dramatic impact of climate change. A PDF copy Wikipedia’s report on Michael is attached. Michael is just the latest of a long series climatic disasters that show that America must immediately reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. As Professor Kim Cobb, the link between climate change and a long series of hurricanes is clear. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2018/10/14/hurricanes-like-michael-show-why-we-cant-ignore-climate-change/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.091a0ba3eb6b (PDF copy attached).
    The DEIS should be re-written to acknowledge that the vast majority of scientists have concluded that the Proposed Repeal and similar federal actions will cause an increase in hurricanes hitting America The continued news about hurricanes underscores the irresponsible nature of the DEIS’s repeated irresponsible efforts to downplay the patent significance

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