Trump Administration Proposes Weakening Obama Auto Emissions Rules, Citing Cost and Road Deaths

By Siegel, Josh | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, August 2, 2018 | Go to article overview

Trump Administration Proposes Weakening Obama Auto Emissions Rules, Citing Cost and Road Deaths


Siegel, Josh, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


The Trump administration moved Thursday to replace strict Obama-era fuel efficiency standards for vehicles with weaker ones, claiming that less stringent mandates would make cars more affordable and safer.

The Environmental Protection Agency, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said that the preferred outcome of the administration's proposed plan would freeze fuel-efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions targets at 2020 levels through 2026, instead of raising them each year as previously required.

This approach could prevent 1,000 fatalities from crashes annually, and save Americans roughly $2,000 on every new vehicle purchased, the administration claims.

A proposal by the two agencies, which jointly administer the corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, program, lays out eight options for new national fuel-economy standards for model years 2021-2026, with the freeze being its recommended action.

“We are delivering on President Trump’s promise to the American public that his administration would address and fix the current fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards,” EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement Thursday. “Our proposal aims to strike the right regulatory balance based on the most recent information and create a 50-state solution that will enable more Americans to afford newer, safer vehicles that pollute less. More realistic standards can save lives while continuing to improve the environment."

The proposal sets up a fight with California, which has a waiver that allows it to set its own tougher fuel efficiency rules that other states may follow.

It also puts automakers in an awkward position. Automakers had lobbied the Trump administration for more flexibility in the fuel rules. But they fear facing a patchwork of regulations preventing them from selling the same cars in every state, and have said they support a year-over-year increase in fuel efficiency standards.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, and the Association of Global Automakers applauded the administration's action, and called in a joint statement for "substantive negotiations to begin" between the federal government and California.

Despite the call for unity, the Trump administration is expected to lay out a legal argument for revoking California’s waiver, to keep it following the national standards.

California could move to formally separate its rules from the national program if EPA weakens the standards. That effectively would create two separate rules for automakers to follow when producing cars for sale in the U.S.

The states that follow California, including New York and Pennsylvania, account for roughly a third of the nation’s auto market.

California officials, and the Trump administration, could still negotiate a way to mesh their standards, and maintain one national program that fulfills both of their goals.

“It’s my goal to come up with a 50-state solution that does not necessitate pre-empting California,” Wheeler told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday.

But California and 17 other states already sued the Trump administration in May for rejecting the Obama administration’s fuel-efficiency rules and beginning the process of weakening them.

The Obama administration, seeking to cut greenhouse gas emissions from oil to combat climate change, negotiated with automakers, and California, to reach a deal in 2011 that set fuel efficiency at 54-mile per gallon standard by 2025 for cars and light trucks.

The Trump administration’s plan would freeze the standard at 2020 levels, or 43. …

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