Carper Statement on the EPA IG’s New Report on the SAFE Vehicles Rule

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), released the following statement on a new report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Inspector General (IG) which found that the Trump Administration repeatedly cut corners in its preparation and review of the final Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule.

“Like many things in life, how you conduct yourself matters. This is especially true when it comes to agencies engaged in federal rulemaking. Government actions affect the health and wellbeing of people across our country and our planet, so it’s critical that these decisions are made through a deliberate, thoughtful process,” said Chairman Carper. “Last year, I requested this report after my office discovered real irregularities in how the Trump Administration finalized its deeply flawed SAFE Vehicles rule. This report from the EPA Inspector General confirms those concerns and makes it clear that flawed leadership resulted in flawed policies. I look forward to seeing the actions that EPA will take to ensure the agency fulfills its mission when it writes critical rules.”


On May 1, 2018, Senator Carper called on DOT Secretary Chao and then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to reverse course on a leaked draft proposal that would weaken fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards far beyond what even the U.S. auto industry had requested.

The extreme proposal was then released a few months later in August, 2018. Carper blasted the plan, saying that, if finalized, it would create regulatory uncertainty due to likely prolonged litigation for American automakers, and represent a major step back in the fight against climate change. In the years that followed:

  • In October 2018, Senators Carper, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) released documents proving that Congress rejected legislative efforts to preempt or limit California’s authority in 2007;
  • Also in October 2018, Senator Carper urged Secretary Chao and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to abandon plans to dismantle the clean car standards, highlighting a non-exhaustive list of 10 major legal deficiencies in the administration’s proposal;
  • In December 2018, Senators Carper and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) demanded disclosure of the administration’s contacts with the oil industry regarding the fuel economy rule, after reporting revealed details of a covert lobbying campaign driven by fossil fuel groups to weaken fuel economy rules and increase demand for oil consumption;
  • In May 2019, Senator Carper and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) wrote a letter to Administrator Wheeler demanding documents explaining numerous comments from Administrator Wheeler about EPA’s fuel economy rollback that plainly contradict data presented to him by EPA’s own experts (May 2019);
  • In January 2020, Senator Carper led a letter to Paul Ray underscoring the concerns about the rule that were raised by EPA’s own Science Advisory Board. Later in January, following a review of a leaked draft final rule obtained by his office, Senator Carper sent another letter to OIRA Administrator Paul Ray, urging him to overhaul or completely abandon the Trump Administration’s Part 2 of the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles. In his letter, Senator Carper outlined some of his most serious concerns with the draft final rule which was submitted to OIRA on January 14, 2020, including concerns that it appeared to be incomplete, resulted in costs to consumers that exceed the purported benefits of the rollback, and did not appreciably improve safety, all while adding vast amounts of harmful greenhouse gas pollution to the environment.
  • In March 2020, Senator Carper asked the EPA IG to open an investigation after receiving reports of seemingly purposeful and potentially unlawful efforts on the part of EPA political officials to avoid the standard processes and statutory requirements associated with finalizing the SAFE Vehicles rule, including potential efforts to conceal documents that should eventually be made public. In that letter, Senator Carper also recounted significant concerns EPA officials had with the Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) August 2018 proposed rule, as well as the extensive negative media reports that resulted from the disclosure of EPA’s documented concerns with the proposal.
  • In May 2020, Senator Carper urged the EPA IG to expand its investigation after documents obtained by Senator Carper’s office—several of which the EPA IG is requesting formally from EPA today—revealed that the previous reports he had shared with the EPA IG were accurate. In addition to efforts to illegally conceal documents that should have been made public when the rule was finalized, Senator Carper provided the EPA IG new documents that revealed significant inaccuracies and technical errors in the final rule that, apparently, EPA officials repeatedly asked DOT officials to correct. Those documents also revealed that EPA officials apparently believed the failure to correct those inaccuracies and errors would make the rule legally vulnerable to challenge—but despite this, DOT officials proceeded. Additionally, those documents showed that EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler requested that sweeping changes be made to the rule after it was signed but before it was published in the Federal Register.