Trump Pumps the Brakes on Obama-Era Fuel Standards - Hit & Run

EPA moves to scrap Obama-era clean car rules and sets up fight with California

EPA moves to scrap Obama-era clean car rules and sets up fight with California

The Trump administration on Thursday announced plans to freeze fuel efficiency requirements for the nation's cars and trucks through 2026 while moving to undercut the ability of states - including ME - to set their own tailpipe emissions restrictions.

The proposal outlined Thursday would eliminate the sharp increase in fuel-economy requirements adopted under the Obama administration in collaboration with California. According to the EPA's proposal, "Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks", the agency would amend the rules to retain standards for model year 2020. Despite the waiver, California still fails to meet federal clean air guidelines, the agencies noted.

Their unease was reflected in a statement released by Gloria Bergquist, vice president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which urged negotiations between California and the federal government "to find a common sense solution that sets continued increases in vehicle efficiency standards while also meeting the needs of America's drivers".

"The earth is not flat, and climate change is real", California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said, as he connected global warming to the deadly wildfires burning out of control throughout the state.

But consumer advocacy groups, environmental groups and medical associations have said the rule would hurt Americans by costing them more at the pump and releasing more air pollution in the long run.

"This has to be absolutely one of the most harmful and dumbest actions that the EPA has taken", Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said.

'California will fight this stupidity in every conceivable way possible'.

The states that have adopted California's emission rules together make up about one third of the US auto market.

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While many carmakers have touted their development of more efficient cars, including electric vehicles, auto lobbyists were quick to get assurances from the Trump administration that the more stringent rules would be dismantled.

As auto manufacturers boosted fuel economy across their fleets, incremental improvements have become more costly and complicated while returns have diminished, the agencies say.

All of this could be somewhat mitigated if California can set stronger standards; at the moment, the state and federal standard are the same. The government also said the proposal will save consumers $2,340 (£1,796 / €2,017) since automakers won't have to increase prices to offset the costs of building more efficient vehicles.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in a statement Thursday that there is no need to change the standards, and that the state is "not going to let him" change its emissions standards.

The debate on fuel economy comes amid friction between the Trump administration and the auto industry due to a Commerce Department review of whether to impose steep tariffs on auto imports.

The rollback would undermine efforts by California and several other states to meet commitments the USA made in the Paris agreement on climate change.

"Everyone loses at the end", says Simon Mui, a senior scientist at the environmental nonprofit NRDC and the California lead for the organizations' clean vehicles and fuels, climate, and energy program.

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.

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