US administration proposes to weaken vehicle air pollution standards


As expected, the US administration released a proposal that would freeze rules requiring automakers to build cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars, and that would also challenge the right of states to set their own, more stringent pollution standards.

The new proposal, jointly published by the EPA and the Transportation Department, would revoke the existing federal standard, which will require automakers to increase average fuel economy to about 54 mpg by 2025. The new rules would freeze fuel economy after 2021 at about 37 miles per gallon. They would also revoke a legal waiver, granted to California under the 1970 Clean Air Act and now followed by 13 other states, that allows those states to set more stringent tailpipe pollution standards than the federal ones.

Automakers have devoted much money and effort to watering down or delaying the fuel economy standards, and now they have a sympathetic ear in Washington. Indeed, their lobbying efforts may have succeeded a little too well. As the New York Times reports, the proposal seeks to revoke states’ rights to set their own pollution standards, which is likely to lead to a lengthy legal battle with California and the other states that follow its rules, leaving carmakers caught in a regulatory no-man’s land.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra left no doubt about his determination to resist the rollback: “The Trump administration has launched a brazen and unlawful attack on our nation’s clean car standards. We will use every legal tool at our disposal to fight back.”

Automakers hope the administration will make some sort of deal with California before issuing a final proposal. “With today’s release of the administration’s proposals, it’s time for substantive negotiations to begin,” said Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. “We urge 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.”

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler also said he would like to avoid a legal showdown. “It’s my goal to come up with a 50-state solution that does not necessitate pre-empting California,” he told a Senate panel. However, the White House and the Transportation Department are said to be spoiling for a fight with California, according to the Times.

The administration will now invite public comment on the proposal before issuing a final version, probably later this year.  The chorus of dissenters includes automotive suppliers, auto dealerships, and of course environmental groups, who hope that public pressure will convince the government to make substantial changes to the plan.

The administration justified the rollback of standards by claiming that higher fuel economy would lead to higher costs and more highway fatalities, claims that the National Resource Defense Council, among others, refuted. “The administration is using a parade of horrors to justify an extreme rollback,” said the NRDC’s Daniel Becker. “This will lead to more polluting vehicles, cost consumers more, and it won’t save any lives.”

“The proposal attempts to counter years of robust technical analysis that culminated in the  joint analysis that EPA, NHTSA, and CARB produced in 2016 and the Obama administration’s 2017 determination that the existing standards are not only achievable at considerable savings to consumers, but could be strengthened,” reads a technical report from the NRDC. The NRDC says that the administrations arguments rely on dubious data, as its report explains in detail.


Source: New York Times, NRDC

  • Gerard Sauer

    Dear Donald, why can you not see that you are going to be looked at by the nation’s young people as the guy that screwed up their world. You do not have the right to do that, you have no authority here, as you are way too old and lack the knowledge and wisdom to take care of the young people’s future. Hand over to someone that truly understands these issues and is qualified.

  • Brian Couchene

    Instead of Fighting the federal government, could California find another way to achieve their goal and still stay within their states rights? Like instead of trying to restrict the sale of polluting vehicles… Enact a law preventing the USE of polluting vehicles on STATE funded roads. That would make it impossible for automakers to sell a vehicle that buyers couldn’t drive off the dealer lot. Maybe my example isn’t a good one, but maybe there’s another similar idea that would… It might be easier and more effective to go around the administration, than trying to fight through them.

    • mipak

      Simply outlaw ICE’s period. That’s what many countries have already done and more are doing so soon.

  • Dennis Worley

    America is the laughing stock of the world with Drumph in power….get rid of him!

  • brian_gilbert

    Going completely centrally controlled, driverless will save a dortune (£400 Billion a hear in the case of the UK. This requires the vehicles to be electric for the huge increase in reliability. If other countries go that way then the USA continuing its current path will be unable to compete.

  • Terry Robb

    Remember the President is getting a lot of info about this issue from several under him like resigned Scott Puit and Rick Perry. Most likely the President has not seen the change in the auto industry in the last 7 yrs. EVs are gaining every yr and they can be upgraded easily. Gas cars can not and all the presidents men see numbers and think a lighter vehicle is dangerous on the road. In order to meet the new law auto engineers can only lighten the gas car. The gas engine can not be improved anymore easily.Most likely Rick Perry will not step up and say EVs are heavier than almost all gas cars and will not have to have weight reduced for mileage. I would like to remind everyone Rick Perry owns a Tesla. He may have received the vehicle from allowing TX to bid on the battery factory when he was governor. Call your auto company and tell more EVs. I own a Volt and GM is already there somewhat with some EVs

  • mipak

    Californians should just secede from the nation as their needs and those of East Coast greedy Koch brothers and their corrupted brethren in Congress are not aligned at all.

  • daniel michael

    The regulations are way too high and will make cars unsafe, mainly because the cars will have to be manufactured in such a way to reduce weight. The lighter materials aren’t as strong and much more expensive. Over regulating makes products much more expensive. If the governement has its way, soon people won’t be able to afford a new car at all. So, I am with Pres Trump on this one.