EPA Will Ease Vehicle-Emissions Standards

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt

Greenhouse gas emissions are tied directly to how much gasoline a vehicle burns. But the law is still on the books, and the EPA has yet to propose a replacement that meets the legal requirements set by a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that found the agency is obliged to regulate any type of air pollution that "may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare", including greenhouse gases.

Another unknown is what the administration will do about California, which has a waiver from Obama's EPA to set its own strict standards.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement Monday that the agency will work with California to finalize new standards.

The EPA plans to roll back the Obama Administration's standards on vehicle emissions, setting the auto industry - and the Trump government - on a collision course with California.

The news was largely hailed by the auto industry, which had challenged the 54.5 mpg target it initially agreed to under the Obama Administration.

"There's no good reason for these standards to be sabotaged", Evans said.

The widely anticipated decision drew criticism from consumer and environmental groups.

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"Rolling back the clean vehicle standards is a disaster for our climate and for consumers", added Madeline Page, campaign coordinator for Public Citizen. The move brings to bear a fight that has been brewing since the earliest days of the Trump administration, when the president called the regulations "out of control" at a meeting with executives of the big three automakers. That target will be replaced with a weaker fuel economy standard that the administration will settle on at a later date.

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The intended message: "The climate crisis is real and your efforts with Trump to roll back #CleanerCars standards will not go unnoticed".

"We support increasing clean vehicle standards through 2025 and are not asking for a rollback", said Bill Ford, executive chairman of the Ford Motor Company, and Jim Hackett, the company's CEO, in a blog post last week. "We didn't ask for that", said Robert Bienenfeld, an assistant vice president at American Honda Motor. "Americans voted for an economy built for the future, but this administration continues to ignore experts and the auto industry's own progress to push a vision that will damage U.S. competitiveness for years to come". The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers has been criticized for requesting the rollback while at the same time touting its members' increased investments in electric vehicles.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the EPA's "assault" on CAFE standards "risks our ability to protect our children's health, tackle climate change and save hardworking Americans money".

California has set its own standards for tailpipe emissions since before the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, as part of an effort to reduce pollution, especially in the historically smoggy Los Angeles Basin. When the EPA moved to regulate greenhouse gasses from cars, it was catching up to California's existing standards.

The clash underscores some of the contradictions of Pruitt's talk of "cooperative federalism", a phrase he uses to justify weakening federal standards to shift environmental regulation to the states. "EPA will set a national standard for greenhouse gas emissions that allows auto manufacturers to make cars that people both want and can afford", he said in a statement.

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It is in the nation's best interest to have a national standard, according to Pruitt. "We look forward to working with key stakeholders and the state of California once EPA and NHTSA begin a rulemaking".

NY attorney general Eric Schneiderman, who has waged multiple challenges to Trump administration reversals of Obama-era policies over the past year, also weighed in Monday.

"The Trump Administration's assault on clean vehicle standards risks our ability to protect our children's health, tackle climate change, and save hardworking Americans money", Becerra lashed back.

"This evaluation would determine whether the standards remain appropriate or should be made more, or less stringent", the EPA says.

During Barack Obama's presidency, the US government agreed to strict rules that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about one-third for new cars sold from 2022 to 2025.

But automakers complain they are confronting a market in which gas prices are low and consumers are more interested in purchasing SUVs and pickups than the fuel-efficient passenger vehicles the federal mandates favor.

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