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Published: Sat, August 04, 2018
Research | By Jennifer Evans

Trump administration announces plans to freeze Obama-era fuel-efficiency requirements

Trump administration announces plans to freeze Obama-era fuel-efficiency requirements

The Trump administration today formally proposed weakening Obama-era clean vehicle rules and pre-empting states from setting tougher standards.

The lawsuit is being lead by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra who said "The Trump Administration has launched a brazen and unlawful attack, no matter how cloaked, on our nation's Clean Car Standards".

The administration also wants to revoke the authority of California and other states to set their own, stricter mileage standards - independent of federal ones. Get the full story in the video above.

If EPA and NHTSA were to roll back the projected 39.36 mpg national standard for model year 2025 to, say, the 27.52 mpg standard for model year 2016-and should CARB be permitted to keep its requirements at the 39.36 mpg standard-it would lower the effective standard to 23.7 mpg for the 37 states not regulated by CARB.

The Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Thursday that officially calls for leaving fuel economy standards alone rather than increasing them as decided under the Obama Administration.

Another potential wrench in the proposal is that California and several other states have voluntarily adopted higher gas mileage standards, setting up a conflict between automakers that want a uniform standard for all states.

It argued that this policy change was necessary because the Obama administration's standards "raised the cost and decreased the supply of newer, safer vehicles".

"We are going to remain committed to improving fuel economy, reducing emissions and working toward an all-electric future, but we believe it is in everybody's best interest to have one national set of requirement that comprehends the new technologies", she said. "The Trump administration has made a decision to force America's drivers to spend more at the gas pump, burn millions more barrels of oil, and put us on a path to greater harm from climate change". If that happens, Abuelsamid sees automakers marketing trucks and SUVs heavily in states that don't follow California. The proportion of passengers killed in cars that are older than 18 years is nearly double that of cars that are newer than three years, according to a recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study.

The administration's proposal asserts that "attempting to solve climate change, even in part" is "fundamentally different" from the Clean Air Act's "original goal of addressing smog-related air quality problems".

As a practical matter, however, the proposed changes could languish in courts for years, allowing California to stay its course in the near term.

Two former EPA mileage officials said the administration's proposal departed from years of findings on fuel efficiency, auto safety, exhaust emissions and costs.

"There's some tension between calling for ever-increasing fuel efficiency standards on the one hand and the effect it has on highway safety on the other hand", assistant administrator in the EPA's air office Bill Wehrum told reporters. But any plans to freeze clean air rules and strip California of its power to set its own rules is drawing fire from members of both parties. California and 16 other states already have filed suit to block any change in the fuel efficiency rules.

"We urge California and the federal government to find a common-sense solution", the trade groups Auto Alliance and Global Automakers said in a statement.

"We applaud the president and the administration for releasing this much anticipated proposal that includes a variety of standards for public consideration", they said.

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