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Regulators Defend U.S. Fuel-Economy Rule Against Issa Criticism

U.S. regulators, under fire for a fuel-economy proposal that some lawmakers say may result in more deaths on the nation’s roads, are defending their plan to double gasoline mileage for passenger vehicles.

Automakers wouldn’t sacrifice safety for size as they seek to sell more small vehicles to boost fleet-wide fuel-economy, National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland and Environmental Protection Agency officials said in testimony prepared for a U.S. House panel hearing today.

“We absolutely will not require any manufacturer to do anything that would have a negative effect on safety,” Strickland said in written testimony for the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that oversees regulations.

The rule, announced in July, would require automakers to raise the average fuel economy of the cars they sell in the U.S. to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The mandate is part of President Barack Obama’s plan to reduce oil imports.

The proposed regulation would cut fuel costs for businesses and consumers, according to officials’ prepared testimony.

The regulators are scheduled to testify before a panel overseen by Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican. Issa last month sent letters to the EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, saying he is investigating the role both agencies played in the fuel-economy rule writing.

Jeremy Anwyl, chief executive officer of auto researcher and a witness at today’s hearing, said he shares some of the concerns of Issa and Representative Jim Jordan, the Ohio Republican who is chairman of the regulation subcommittee.

“There’s some questions about the sort of secret nature of this process where a deal was struck with the industry before a consumer comment period had been triggered,” Anwyl told reporters in a conference call yesterday.

The agencies “are strictly adhering” to procedure while writing the rule, Strickland said in his testimony.

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