September 10, 2012 6:30 AM, EDT

Oge to Retire From EPA’s Air Quality Office; ATA’s Graves Praises Her Work With Trucking

By Timothy Cama, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the Sept. 10 print edition of Transport Topics.

Margo Oge, a key player in the federal government’s push to decrease vehicle emissions and increase fuel efficiency, said she will retire at the end of this month.

Oge is director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality. She spent 30 years at EPA, 18 of which were in the air quality office.

“Working together, this office — this team — made history,” she wrote in an e-mail obtained by Transport Topics. “Cars, trucks, buses, locomotives, marine engines and every other piece of equipment that moves and produces emissions have been transformed. The fuels they burn have been transformed. As a result of our actions, tens of thousands premature deaths, respiratory illnesses and other ailments will be prevented.”

Under her leadership, EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration developed the first-ever greenhouse-gas emissions and fuel-efficiency standards for heavy- and medium-duty trucks, set to take effect in stages later this decade (8-15-11, p. 1).

Oge worked with American Trucking Associations to develop SmartWay, a voluntary program that encourages trucking companies to reduce their emissions and improve fuel economy and encourages shippers to use those carriers. EPA launched it in 2004.

ATA President Bill Graves applauded Oge’s work and her cooperation with the industry.

“She was always really good about being available and open to input and concerns from our industry,” Graves told TT. “She was willing to come to us and sit down and talk to us about those things that we had concerns about or that we cared about.”

Graves singled out SmartWay as a program that, he said, is effective because of its focus and cooperation with trucking.

“A lot of the success of the SmartWay program ties to her openness, her understanding that you really have to engage the user community for those kinds of programs to be successful,” he said.

Oge also worked with ATA to launch its sustainability initiative in 2007, Graves said. The initiative seeks to decrease emissions and fuel use within the industry.

“We developed a very good appreciation for one another,” he said.

Jed Mandel, president of the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, complimented Oge for her hard work and willingness to work with industry.

“Margo and her team at EPA have always pushed EMA and its members incredibly hard to meet increasingly stringent standards, and we have successfully done so,” Mandel said in a statement. “No small credit for that success goes to industry efforts but also to Margo’s tenacity, creativity, practicality and willingness to listen to all views.”

Oge announced her plan to retire a week after her office and NHTSA finalized fuel-economy and greenhouse-gas emissions standards for cars and light trucks through 2025 (9-3, p. 2).

“The result of these efforts is a ‘win-win-win’ situation,” Oge said. “It will save consumers money at the pump, it will protect our environment and public health, and it will enhance the country’s energy security,”

EPA has not indicated who will succeed her to lead the department.