Chairman Issa Seeks White House Explanation about Information Indicating its Direct and Substantial Role in Fuel Standards Process

February 29, 2012

Evidence Contradicts Earlier White House Assertions that Process was Led at Agency Level

(WASHINGTON)—The Executive Office of the President (EOP) played a "direct and substantial" role in crafting regulations and securing industry support for vehicle fuel economy/greenhouse gas emission rules enacted by the Obama Administration, according to information provided to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) today wrote to White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler seeking an explanation as to why the White House implied in prior communications that that the EOP was not significantly involved in the development of these standards.

Of particular interest, Chairman Issa wrote, is Committee information indicating that the EOP circulated draft commitment letters for each automaker to send to EPA and NHTSA for both MY 2012-1016 and MY 2017-2025 standards. EOP required that the automakers execute these letters without any modifications and return within a 24-hour "hard deadline." The Committee has also learned that the Council on Environmental Quality "exerted significant influence in inserting a mid-term review process of the MY 2017-2025 standards as a means to entice automakers to accept the Administration's proposal," the letter said. It also noted that information uncovered in the investigation showed that Ron Bloom, then-Assistant to the President for manufacturing Policy, was in regular contact with executives as the "big three" U.S. automakers in the period leading up to the President's announcement of the new standards.

The White House had previously told the Committee that several executive branch agencies were "in the best position to provide the Committee" with information regarding its ongoing investigation into the process through which the rules were crafted. Since last fall, the Committee has been in regular contact with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about the development of these standards. Information obtained from these entities, as well as from other sources, has shown that components of the EOP participated directly and substantially in developing the standards.

In communications with the Committee, EPA explained that the Council on Environmental Quality, the National Economic Council, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Domestic Policy Council "played an important role" in developing these standards. NHTSA likewise acknowledge that these EOP components participated in these discussions.

"Early in 2009, the President promised to make his Administration the most open and transparent in history. However, it appears that the process by which the Administration has developed these fuel economy/greenhouse gas emissions standards has been anything but open and transparent," Chairman Issa wrote. He noted that information provided to the Committee corroborated earlier media accounts that the Administration prohibited any written communications and included a vow of silence. "The information obtained by the Committee appears to corroborate these accounts, suggesting that the discussions culminating in these standards were not based on sound science or objectivity, but rather were opaque, unbalanced, and driven by political concerns," Issa's letter said.

Chairman Issa's letter to White House Counsel Ruemmler asked a serious of detailed questions about participants and process involving this rulemaking. A copy of the letter is here.

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