WASHINGTON -- The EPA's proposal to reset fuel economy standards for 2022-25 model year vehicles will be heavily motivated by consumer demand, administrator Scott Pruitt told a House panel Thursday.
Pruitt, reiterating why he decided this month to reverse the Obama administration's standards, said pollution can be reduced more by increasing the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks consumers want to buy rather than trying to force sales of highly efficient vehicles.
"We ought to endeavor as a country to set standards for lower emissions on cars that people actually want to buy," Pruitt said. "And what's happened is we've created these arbitrary levels that has put a certain sector of cars in the marketplace that no one is purchasing, which means they stay on older vehicles and defeats the purpose of the rule."
Pruitt said there is no plan "at present" to revoke California's waiver to set stricter air quality standards than those of the federal government if the EPA blows up a 2011 agreement that unified emissions standards. A single national program remains the goal and the EPA is working with the California Air Resources Board to find common ground, Pruitt said.
The administrator, who in the past has advocated states' rights on many issues, has recently suggested that California exerts too much power over national environmental standards and may have to be forced into an agreement the state doesn't like.
Pruitt said one way to help automakers meet the corporate average fuel economy standards, which translate to about 36 mpg in real world driving, is to pursue a national standard for high octane fuel.
Pruitt spent much of the hearing taking flak from Democrats on the House Energy & Commerce environment subcommittee over allegations of his luxury spending habits, cronyism, and conflicts of interest, as well as efforts to loosen environmental protections and limit the use of scientific reports for policy and rule making.
Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said Pruitt was unfit to hold the public's trust and should resign.
The hearing was ostensibly called to review the EPA's fiscal year 2019 budget.
White House officials are reported to be upset with Pruitt for his spending habits and management practices, but so far he has continued to maintain the trust of President Donald Trump.