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October 26, 2018

Mr. James Tamm


Chief Fuel Economy Division
Office of Rulemaking
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.
Washington, DC 20590

Re: Docket NHTSA-2018-0067 and EPA–HQ–OAR–2018–0283


The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026
Passenger Cars and Light Trucks

Dear Mr. Tamm:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed rule. I am an attorney based in the El
Paso, Texas–Las Cruces, New Mexico area. Much of my work is focused on combatting air pollution
and climate change. These problems are causing significant harm in our region. We are already
experiencing record high temperatures, extended drought, and deadly wildfires. The Rio Grande – the
lifeblood of our community – is already under extreme stress; warmer temperatures are expected to
cause additional declines in coming decades. 1 Ground level-ozone and particulate matter remain serious
problems in the greater El Paso area, causing 21 premature deaths in the region every year, according to
researchers at New York University and the American Thoracic Society.2

Motor vehicles are the predominant contributor to air pollution in our region. Hundreds of
thousands of vehicles pass through our community each day on Interstate 10. The pollution from this

1See generally Henry Fountain, In a Warming West, the Rio Grande Is Drying Up, N.Y. Times
(May 24, 2018).
2 https://healthoftheair.org/city/79821
traffic is exacerbated by emissions from cars and trucks idling at border crossings. Emissions
that are “upstream” from mobile sources – e.g., oil refineries and gas stations – are also
significant contributors to regional air pollution.

The National Program – including NHTSA’s augural standards and EPA’s final
greenhouse gas emission standards for 2021-2025 – was expected to provide significant benefits
to our community. These standards would have led to significant reductions in carbon pollution,
which contributes to global warming and, indirectly, to smog. They would have reduced
particulate pollution, saving hundreds of lives every year. As icing on the cake, they would have
saved vehicle owners thousands of dollars in fuel costs. Repealing the standards will eliminate
all of these benefits.

The effect on public health will be especially severe. Because our region is expected to
experience a significant increase in vehicle miles traveled (“VMT”) in coming decades,3 steady
increases in emission and fuel economy standards are necessary just to prevent backsliding.
Freezing standards at current levels will result in increased pollution loads, and worsened health
impacts, in our community, and similar communities across the country. I urge NHTSA and
EPA to withdraw the proposed rule, to ensure that communities across the countries can continue
to enjoy the health benefits and reduced fuel costs provided by the National Program.

I would also like to share my views on the so-called “rebound effect.” NHTSA relies
heavily on analysis purporting to show that strengthened fuel economy standards would cause
consumers to drive more, thereby causing additional vehicle fatalities. Other commenters will
show that this analysis is deeply flawed as a technical matter, and that NHTSA lacks statutory
authority to base its decision on this speculation. I would like to make an additional point.
Relying on this analysis would be arbitrary and capricious because it is obviously pretextual.

Like many other opponents of NHTSA’s proposal, I strongly support policies that reduce
VMT in order to increase safety, reduce greenhouse gas and criteria-pollutant emissions, and
increase quality of life. As explained, the projected increase in VMT in coming decades is a

3
Interstate traffic in our region is projected to increase by approximately 60% between
2012 and 2042, from 189,100 vehicles per day to 303,000. http://reimaginei10.com/
major concern for our community. Interstate 10 is the only major thorough-fare connecting El
Paso’s eastside to its westside, and neighboring parts of New Mexico. Traffic volume along this
stretch is expected to increase by 60% by 2042, with an expected 80.7% increase in commute
time.4 As explained, this additional vehicle traffic will also greatly increase smog and particulate
pollution loads, absent an aggressive transition towards more efficient vehicles.

Unfortunately, NHTSA’s proposal is not a rational approach to reducing VMT.


Researchers have identified a variety of factors that affect VMT, including fuel prices and taxes,
road congestion, availability of public transportation, personal preferences, land use and zoning
policies, and broader demographic and economic trends. See, e.g., Nat’l Center for Sustainable
Transportation, Factors Affecting Passenger Travel in the United States (Nov. 2015). Although
there may be a relationship between fuel economy standards and VMT – insofar as tighter fuel
economy standards lower the marginal costs of driving – researchers have not identified fuel
economy as a major factor affecting VMT. See id.

To state the obvious, EPCA is not a comprehensive transportation planning statute. It is a


fuel economy statute. If Congress had intended for NHTSA to take action to reduce VMT, it
would have enacted a statute directing the agency to address the issue comprehensively. It surely
would not have addressed the issue by authorizing NHTSA to undermine EPCA, particularly
when fuel economy is only tangentially related to the VMT issue.

The unfortunate fact is that neither NHTSA nor its parent agency appear genuinely
interested in reducing VMT. They do not have a comprehensive plan addressed to this issue.
They have not been active in pushing for increased funding for public transportation. They have
not even engaged in a comparison of various options for reducing VMTs, to show that rolling
back fuel economy standards is a cost-effective or reasonable way to pursue this goal, as
compared to other options. In other words, NHTSA does not appear to be genuinely interested in
reducing VMT. It appears to be using the issue to rationalize a decision made for other reasons.
That is the essence of arbitrary and capricious decisionmaking.

4 http://reimaginei10.com/
I respectfully urge you to withdraw the proposal and finalize the augural standards.
Thank you in advance for your attention to these comments.

Sincerely,

/s/ David Baake

David R. Baake
Baake Law LLC
275 Downtown Mall
Las Cruces, NM 88001
david@baakelaw.com
(545) 343-2782