Keystone XL pipeline case portends struggle for Trump emissions rollback effort

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WASHINGTON – Public interest groups, national regulators for state pollution and many car manufacturers are fighting in the Trump government's campaign to dilute clean car standards in the model years 2021-26.

They can relax. This is "The Gang That Straight can not shoot."

Just like the Mafia family in the 1969 novel in Jimmy Breslin, who knocked one after the other, the White House does not seem to know how the rules that it does not like can be killed.

The Safe Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles Rule will suffer the same fate as other Trump executive decisions and agency actions that will never see the light of day due to sloppiness work checked by political agents.

The latest example is the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Days after he took office, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that denied President Barack Obama's decision to refuse a permit for the pipeline with Canadian oil sands to the Gulf Coast for export. But this month, a federal judge blocked the further construction of a collarbone, noting that the Trump administration did not give a "motivated explanation" for the move and ignored the impact of the project on climate change.

Judge Brian Morris of Montana's US District Court also found that Trump officials were insufficiently accountable for how a fall in oil prices could affect the viability of the project or explore the potential for oil spills. Instead, they simply declared a policy change to priority for energy security, economic development and infrastructure.

That is because Trump and many minors have no patience to use the unpleasant conditions of the government, the laborious work that is needed to justify changes in the regulations with a broad public impact. They would rather achieve quick political victories in the Twitter verse.

This does not mean that existing rules should never be revised by a new administration. But because these changes are legitimate enough to withstand legal challenges, they must be implemented with the proper attention to administrative and technical details. According to federal law, agencies must demonstrate that changes to rules are not arbitrary or fickle.

The SAFE rule is inadequate in this test. NHTSA has largely controlled the process, although the expertise of the government on engines and emission controls lies within the EPA. The majority of accounts led to poor analysis, inconsistencies and unsubstantiated claims to justify the outcome of the White House.

The Obama administration had its own political motives to increase the timeline for the completion of the 2025 norms, in short, an assessment process that the sector had expected to take another year or more to ensure the signature of environmental policy. before Trump went to work.

That effort can be anything for nothing. But with thousands of page's supporting analysis, the Obama administration can not be accused of not adequately studying the problem. The Trump EPA and NHTSA have lasted three months from the reopening of the process to issuing a proposed rule.

The challenges in court have already begun. States and interest groups are expected to attack the rationale of the rule by comparing the evidence from the Trump and the Obama administration, with the aim of showing that the decision was politically motivated.

Former EPA officials and environmental groups say that the drafting of regulations is accompanied by attempts to manipulate the results. For example, NHTSA & # 39; s consumer choice model argues that the extra cost of fuel-saving technologies will motivate people to stick to older vehicles that do not have advanced safety features, even because fuel savings encourage them to drive more and provide them with increased statistical risk of accident.

It also models short-term national travel costs that are 20 to 25 percent lower than those in official federal data, allowing NHTSA to calculate lower consumer savings under existing standards, and thus lower costs under rollback.

In one case, NHTSA employees forgot a crucial figure by dividing four, according to The Atlantic magazine.

The technical staff of the EPA is frustrated about the technical work of the agency with the leading rubber-stamped NHTSA, according to my reports and other accounts.

Acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler could play the lead role in this drama. Trump said last week that he plans to nominate Wheeler on a permanent basis, and a filled Republican majority in the Senate could ease his confirmation path.

Wheeler is a lobbyist in the coal and gas industry who may agree with the policy change. But he has a history of following the right procedure and legislative mandates. If he has time and opportunity, he may rewrite the last line in a way that passes the legal tests.

That could be a blessing and a curse for critics of the current SAFE proposal.