EPA to ease emission standards; changes could spark legal battle in California

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On Monday, Trump's Environmental Protection Agency fulfilled the request, issuing an official determination from EPA boss Scott Pruitt that the U.S.'s vehicle emissions standards-a key part of Obama's program to fight climate change-"didn't comport with reality".

"This move sets us back from years of advancements by the automotive industry put in motion by states that took the lead in setting emission standards", Democratic governors from California, Oregon, and Washington said in a joint statement on Monday.

Mr. Pruitt made his announcement April 2 with the completion of the required Midterm Evaluation of the GHG and CAFE standards set by the Obama administration in 2012.

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

If Pruitt leaves the waiver in place, it would limit the greenhouse gas damage of Trump's reversal; California has such a large market, it effectively sets standards for the rest of the country since many auto manufacturers don't want to produce vehicles that they can't sell in California.

"This was the right decision, and we support the administration for pursuing a data-driven effort and a single national program as it works to finalize future standards", said the industry group representing Fiat Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Volkswagen and others. When the standards were implemented in 2012, the Obama administration set the bar high: automakers would have to improve the average fuel efficiency of their fleets to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, nearly double where fuel efficiency standards were at the time.

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"We didn't ask for that", he said.

The decision will "change nothing" in California and the dozen states with rules enforcing the old standard, she added.

According to Pruitt, the evaluation of greenhouse gas emissions standards intended for model years 2022 to 2025, revealed current standards are "not appropriate".

He said the federal government can't let one state "dictate standards for the rest of the country".

And that, along with other legal actions, could tie up any changes the EPA winds up making for some time.

A roster of private companies also criticized the relaxing of rules. Doug Jones from Alabama telling ABC News' "This Week" that he thinks Pruitt "is in real trouble" because "it just looks so bad".

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According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 288,000 people work in the US manufacturing equipment tied to fuel efficiency.

The Trump administration announced that fuel-efficiency regulations for cars and light trucks are too stringent and must be revised, beginning a process sought by the US auto industry to roll back anti-pollution targets.

But last week, anticipating Pruitt's decision, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said he was prepared to sue the federal government if it tried to scale back the rules. It will also use a 2009 waiver from the Obama administration to keep enforcing the rules planned through 2025.

Alliance to Save Energy: "Weakening the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards would mean higher fuel costs for individuals and businesses, more greenhouse gas emissions and sacrificing our energy security". While automakers have been hopeful some deal could be brokered, perhaps with California agreeing to weaken the more immediate targets in exchange for federal buy-in to more aggressive goals through 2030, that is looking increasingly unlikely.

Clean energy advocates argue loosening vehicle standards would leave the United States at a disadvantage.

"Major investors and businesses understand that rolling back the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and emissions standards will undermine the global competitiveness of the US auto industry at a time when the rest of the world is moving in the opposite direction, prioritizing clean vehicles and responding to consumer demand for cars that save them money", said Carol Lee Rawn, director of transportation at Ceres. It cites a drop in oil prices, the slow adoption of electric vehicles, the rise in sales of SUVs and trucks, as well as fear that consumers will wind up paying more for highly efficient vehicles. "The standards announced in 2011 were set to turn the United States from a laggard to a leader and they supported our global competitiveness".

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