Calif. Vows to Fight Feds' Fuel-Efficiency Roll Back

Rosemary Collier
August 4, 2018

On top of these regressive effects, the proposal would deny states the right to create their own more efficient fuel standards.

The Trump administration's proposal, jointly published by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department, would roll back a 2012 rule that required automakers to almost double the fuel economy of passenger vehicles to an average of about 54 mpg by 2025. Meanwhile, the US would increase its fuel consumption by about 500,000 barrels of oil per day, contributing to increased levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Department of Transportation Secretary, Elaine L. Chao, praised the proposed rule, stating, "More realistic standards will promote a healthy economy by bringing newer, safer, cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles to USA roads and we look forward to receiving input from the public".

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Thursday joined a bipartisan coalition of 20 states seeking to block the Trump Administration's reckless actions to allow downloadable and untraceable (so-called "ghost") guns to become available without restriction.

The prospect of an extended legal fight has discomfited automakers, who had asked the administration to relax the Obama-era rules but don't want to see the US market split in two, with different models of cars required in blue and red states. "It could save up to a thousand lives annually by reducing these barriers that prevent consumers from getting into newer, safer cars".

"We want to make sure that market forces and consumers help choose what vehicles are manufactured, and that the government is not forcing manufacturers to build cars that consumers don't want", said NHTSA Dept. Administrator Heidi King this week.

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An analysis by the Trump Administration, published jointly by the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSB), estimates that halting fuel efficiency targets at 2020 levels could save $500 billion in "societal costs", avoid thousands of highway fatalities, and save Americans approximately $2,340 on the cost of each new auto. The Trump administration says it wants to revoke that, something that's never been done.

It's now less important to conserve energy and to curb oil demand given the dramatic rise in USA crude production, the Trump administration said in its proposal.

Republican lawmakers cheered the proposal. By 2027, Trump officials argue that keeping the standards could raise vehicle sticker prices by more than $2,300. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Both the targets from the Obama and Trump eras will not apply uniformly to all vehicles, instead vehicles will be assessed based on their footprint and respective category, passenger vehicle or light truck.

This week's publication of the proposed rule in the federal register opens up the next legal step in the Trump administration's procession toward undoing the Obama rule.

The tit-for-tat continues between President Trump and the state of California.

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President Donald Trump had called past year for a review of mileage standards, expressing concern they were hurting employment in the USA auto industry. Under Thursday's proposal, the EPA also confirmed plans to strip California of its authority to set its own fuel economy levels for vehicles, citing a 50-state solution in the proposal. If that were to happen, the plan could end up tangled in litigation for years, leaving automakers caught in regulatory uncertainty.

Industry experts agree. In his May testimony before Congress, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers president Mitch Bainwol urged the administration to "incorporate California" and all other states into "One National Program" in order to avoid a "regulatory nightmare" for manufacturers, regulators, and consumers. If the states win, it could split the national auto market in two - an outcome that automakers have called a worst-case scenario.

Gov. Jerry Brown did not mince words in his response.

For Trump to now destroy a law first enacted at the request of Ronald Reagan five decades ago is a betrayal and an assault on the health of Americans everywhere. Becerra and attorneys general from 16 other states sued in May to stop the EPA from scrapping standards that would have required vehicles by 2025 to achieve 36 miles per gallon (58 kilometers per gallon) in real-world driving, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) over the existing standards.

Federal and California officials would soon meet about the proposal, Wehrum said, adding, "All of us want one national program".

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