Last week, we discussed E&E News reporting on the Trump rollback of gas mileage standards, specifically that it will eliminate 60,000 jobs, and that the EPA and DOT were at odds over the standards.
Since then, two new stories have emerged from the materials released by the EPA about the rule’s development. On Wednesday, the AP’s Ellen Knickmeyer reported that senior EPA staffer William Charmley challenged the DOT’s figures on number of lives saved. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (part of the DOT) claims the rollback would save 1,000 lives a year, but EPA experts found the opposite: the change would increase highway deaths by 17 annually.
Yesterday, Maxine Joselow at E&E News cast the interagency communications as “EPA is the harsh teacher, and the Transportation Department is the struggling student.” There are reportedly “dozens of instances” where “EPA career staff criticize DOT’s political appointees for making faulty assumptions in order to justify the rollback.” The EPA pointed out that the DOT was “comparing apples to oranges,” in one message and misrepresenting research in another. In fact, Joselow found 19 different instances in the documents where it said the “EPA does not agree” with DOT analysis.
One of the key EPA career staffers pushing back on politicized chicanery has been the aforementioned William Charmley, the director of the Assessment and Standards Division in EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality. This has made him a target of Steve Milloy, who posted a picture of Charmley on his website and called out his involvement in the glider truck rule study.
And just like when Milloy tried to spin up the glider truck conspiracy back in June, Michael “*definitely* doing journalism to speak truth to power” Bastasch took a break from licking Zinke’s boots to dutifully run Milloy’s attack on Charmley.
Milloy attacking a public servant trying to protect Americans from pollution is hardly surprising given his career devotion to polluters, from glider trucks to coal to smoking. But he’s actually not the only link between Trump’s fuel efficiency roll-back and the tobacco industry.
The tobacco industry’s rhetoric has been used by other groups defending the rollback, most recently Heritage Foundation’s Nicolas Loris, who wrote in Heritage’s Daily Signal that the rollback “is a big win for buyers, consumer choice.” It’s those last two words that should give one pause. Because as we’ve discussed before in the context of Big Dishwasher, the idea that the public should be free to choose inferior products is a staple of conservative corporate apologia.
Reframing addiction as a smokers’ “freedom of choice” has been one of the tobacco industry’s most successful propaganda tactics. As a 2015 study showed, it allows the industry to shift responsibility off of itself and onto consumers, giving it cover against litigation as well as providing a righteous public relations message grounded “in the concept of liberty and the right to smoke.”
Don’t buy it, then, when you see arguments about regulations restricting consumer choice, because odds are, it’s merely a rhetorical front for an industry that wants to sell a product detrimental to the public. Or do buy it -- it is your choice.