By Valerie Volcovici

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two Democratic lawmakers asked Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt on Monday for documents related to proposed changes to vehicle fuel emission standards and California's authority to set its own measures, and accused him of misleading Congress of the agency's plans.

 

U.S. Representatives Doris Matsui of California and Paul Tonko of New York sent the letter after reports on Friday that the EPA and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration had prepared a proposal that would likely freeze fuel economy standards from 2020 through 2026 and assert that a 1975 federal law pre-empts states from imposing their own emissions rules.

 

Matsui said the reports, which came a day after Pruitt testified about ethics and travel concerns before two House committees, contradicted his response to her question about whether the EPA would revoke California's Clean Air Act waiver that enables it to set more stringent fuel economy standards. He said: "Not at present."

 

"If true, these reports directly contradict your testimony last week. As you were reminded at the start of that hearing, it is a violation of the law to knowingly make false statements to a Congressional committee," the letter said.

The lawmakers requested all emails related to the development of the proposal, drafts, a list of staff that participated in the proposal and a list of all meetings held with industry and stakeholders about it.

They also asked for data used by the EPA earlier this month when it determined earlier proposed standards were too stringent. 

"The Agency is continuing to work with NHTSA to develop a joint proposed rule and is looking forward to the interagency process," EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said.

Bowman said the proposal had not yet been sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review. An administration source familiar with the proposal said it would be sent to the OMB by the end of the week.

Other California lawmakers raised concerns about reports that the EPA could undermine California's waiver.

“Like many Californians from across the political spectrum, I support our state’s long-standing waiver and I have shared my views with Administrator Pruitt on many occasions," said Republican Representative Ken Calvert, who said he would "facilitate" a discussion between the EPA and California officials in the coming days and weeks.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said his office was monitoring the EPA's plans.

"I'm ready to take any and all action necessary to defend our progress," the Democratic official said.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Additional reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Peter Cooney)