Skip to main content

Trump’s vehicle emissions rollback faces EPA Inspector General probe

Trump’s vehicle emissions rollback faces EPA Inspector General probe


The IG is looking for ‘irregularities’ in the crafting of the replacement rule

Share this story

EPA Declares Greenhouse Gases A Danger To Human Health
Photo by Joe Raedle / Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Inspector General has opened an investigation into its own agency’s role in the Trump administration’s replacement of an Obama-era rule that curbed greenhouse gas emissions in cars. The Inspector General’s office will examine whether there were any “irregularities” during the process of crafting the new rule — dubbed the Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles rule, or SAFE — which holds automakers to weaker fuel economy standards through 2025.

Those potential “irregularities” were flagged in May by Sen. Tom Carper (DE), who asked for an investigation in a letter to the EPA Inspector General at the time.

“I’m pleased that the EPA Inspector General is opening an investigation into this rule, which was the product of the most procedurally problematic process my office has ever reviewed. If the EPA IG follows the facts, I have no doubt they will find that the Trump Administration failed to follow the law,” Carper said in a statement Monday.

Trump spent years trying to roll back the Obama-era rule

“EPA will respond to the OIG through the appropriate channels,” EPA Spokesperson James Hewitt said in a statement. “As finalized, the SAFE Vehicles Rule provides a sensible, single national program that strikes the right regulatory balance, protects our environment, and sets reasonable targets for the auto industry, while supporting our economy and the safety of American families.”

The probe is the newest development the years-long fight over the Obama-era rule, which was one of Trump’s first major policy actions after taking office in 2017. It’s also one of many Trump decisions to be examined by an Inspector General — a form of oversight that has proved so potent that the president has fired or replaced multiple Inspectors General this year alone.

The Obama-era rule was announced in 2009 and was put in place in 2012. It required automakers to improve the average fuel economy of their new vehicle fleets by 5 percent every year out to 2025 (model year 2026), ultimately arriving at 54 miles per gallon. On its way out the door in 2016 and early 2017, the Obama-era EPA performed a “mid-term review” of the progress being made and found automakers were “over-complying” with the rule and left it in place.

In March 2017, Trump tasked the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with performing a new review of the rule, which was one of Obama’s signature climate crisis policies, after automakers told him they wanted more flexibility. His administration initially tried to freeze the progressive standards entirely, but ultimately settled on 1.5 percent increases in average fuel economy — essentially adding 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, increasing gasoline consumption by around 80 billion gallons and oil consumption by 2 billion barrels.

The Trump administration tried to justify this by arguing that the looser regulations would lower the upfront cost of a new car by around $1,000. It also argued that if the Obama-era rule was left in place, more people would buy used cars that are dirtier and less safe specifically because the new cars would be that much more expensive.

There are many reasons to debate those findings, and the Trump administration rule is being challenged in court. The lengthy process of crafting the rule (and arriving at those conclusions) was also reportedly a mess, full of shoddy math and infighting between EPA and NHTSA.

It’s that process that the EPA’s Inspector General will now take a look at.

In a letter to the EPA, the Inspector General is asking for “[a]ny briefing materials or written summaries” that were drawn up for the rule, comments and communication from agency staff to NHTSA related to the draft of the rule, and more.

“The documents obtained by my office — which have now also been formally requested by the EPA Inspector General — demonstrate significant irregularities and illegalities throughout the Trump Administration’s preparation and finalization of its SAFE Vehicles rule, which was fraught with fatal flaws from the start,” Carper said Monday. 

Janet McCabe, who led the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation under Obama and worked on the original emissions program, said in an email to The Verge that “many have expressed concern” about the Trump EPA’s rulemaking process.

“It appeared that EPA was deferring to DOT on issues of methodology and analysis in ways that would help support an outcome that ignored progress in the real world and not be in keeping with EPA’s responsibility under the Clean Air Act,” she said.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 23 10 minutes in the clouds

Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.

Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.

External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.

Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.

Spain’s Transports Urbans de Sabadell has La Bussí.

Once again, the US has fallen behind in transportation — call it the Bussí gap. A hole in our infrastructure, if you will.

External Link
Jay PetersSep 23
Doing more with less (extravagant holiday parties).

Sundar Pichai addressed employees’ questions about Google’s spending changes at an all-hands this week, according to CNBC.

“Maybe you were planning on hiring six more people but maybe you are going to have to do with four and how are you going to make that happen?” Pichai sent a memo to workers in July about a hiring slowdown.

In the all-hands, Google’s head of finance also asked staff to try not to go “over the top” for holiday parties.

External Link
Insiders made the most money off of Helium’s “People’s Network.”

Remember Helium, which was touted by The New York Times in an article entitled “Maybe There’s a Use for Crypto After All?” Not only was the company misleading people about who used it — Salesforce and Lime weren’t using it, despite what Helium said on its site — Helium disproportionately enriched insiders, Forbes reports.

James VincentSep 23
Nvidia’s latest AI model generates endless 3D models.

Need to fill your video game, VR world, or project render with 3D chaff? Nvidia’s latest AI model could help. Trained on 2D images, it can churn out customizable 3D objects ready to import and tweak.

The model seems rudimentary (the renders aren’t amazing quality and seem limited in their variety), but generative AI models like this are only going to improve, speeding up work for all sorts of creative types.

Richard LawlerSep 23
Green light.

This week Friday brings the debut of Apple’s other new hardware. We’ve reviewed both the new AirPods Pro and this chonky Apple Watch Ultra, and now you’ll decide if you’re picking them up, or not.

Otherwise, we’re preparing for Netflix’s Tudum event this weekend and slapping Dynamic Island onto Android phones.

The Apple Watch Ultra on a woman’s wrist
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge
External Link
Jess WeatherbedSep 23
Japan will fully reopen to tourists in October following two and a half years of travel restrictions.

Good news for folks who have been waiting to book their dream Tokyo vacation: Japan will finally relax Covid border control measures for visa-free travel and individual travelers on October 11th.

Tourists will still need to be vaccinated three times or submit a negative COVID-19 test result ahead of their trip, but can take advantage of the weak yen and a ‘national travel discount’ launching on the same date. Sugoi!

External Link
Thomas RickerSep 23
Sony starts selling the Xperia 1 IV with continuous zoom lens.

What does it cost to buy a smartphone that does something no smartphone from Apple, Google, Samsung can? $1,599.99 is Sony’s answer: for a camera lens that can shift its focal length anywhere between 85mm and 125mm.

Here’s Allison’s take on Sony’s continuous-zoom lens when she tested a prototype Xperia 1 IV back in May: 

Sony put a good point-and-shoot zoom in a smartphone. That’s an impressive feat. In practical use, it’s a bit less impressive. It’s essentially two lenses that serve the same function: portrait photography. The fact that there’s optical zoom connecting them doesn’t make them much more versatile.

Still, it is a Sony, and

External Link
Corin FaifeSep 23
If God sees everything, so do these apps.

Some Churches are asking congregants to install so-called “accountability apps” to prevent sinful behavior. A Wired investigation found that they monitor almost everything a user does on their phone, including taking regular screenshots and flagging LGBT search terms.