Carper asks EPA to investigate SAFE Vehicles and 'secret science' rules

Delaware News Desk
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

Sen. Tom Carper has asked the Environmental Protection Agency inspector general to open an investigation into potentially unlawful efforts and procedural problems related to the preparation and review of both the draft final Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles rule and the draft supplemental proposal for the Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science rule — the so-called ‘secret science’ rule — Carper’s office announced March 2.

The request comes after Carper’s office received 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 proposing and finalizing these two high-profile rules, including potential efforts to conceal documents that should eventually be made public.

“I have been informed by multiple sources that EPA political officials appear to be trying to conceal EPA comments that are critical of the draft final Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule that was submitted to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs on Jan. 14, 2020,” wrote Carper. “Instead of transmitting these materials to OIRA as part of the interagency review process, which is a standard and lawful process that would also result in their public release once the rule is finalized, hard copies of these materials are being shared only with the Department of Transportation.”

The letter recounts the significant concerns EPA officials had with DOT’s proposal to roll back the clean cars rule, the extensive negative media reports that resulted from the lawful disclosure of EPA’s documented concerns with the proposal, as well as with the leaked ‘draft final rule’ obtained by Carper in February, which was missing key documents — notably the Regulatory Impact Analysis — and included 111 instances of the phrase “text forthcoming.” In response to those negative media reports, Carper’s office learned about efforts to avoid the formal submittal of documents describing EPA’s concerns, which could violate the Clean Air Act. Carper’s office also learned that following his letter describing the incomplete ‘draft final rule,’

“DOT staff was directed to immediately prepare and submit for inter-agency review a draft final Regulatory Impact Analysis, which is a key document that was not included in the package DOT submitted to OMB in January,” Carper continued. “DOT has recently done so. However, this document is reportedly essentially identical to the draft preamble document that was submitted to OMB in January, except this new document is titled ‘Regulatory Impact Analysis’. DOT has also appeared to delete all 111 instances of the phrase ‘text forthcoming’ from the draft final preamble without actually adding any new forthcoming text, and have submitted this ‘new’ draft final preamble document to the docket as well. However, DOT has failed to incorporate any of EPA’s technical feedback.”

“I have learned of similar irregularities in the intra- and inter-agency processes associated with the preparation of a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking of the Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science Rule — the so-called secret science rule,” Carper continued, noting the first proposal of the rule has already been widely criticized for violating the Administrative Procedure Act and other environmental laws.

In his letter, Carper raised concerns that EPA political officials may be failing to follow to properly and transparently document the agency’s rulemaking activities.

The full letter is available at