Trump Administration Presses Plan to Ease Fuel-Economy Standards

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The Trump administration is expected as early as Thursday to propose revoking California's power to set state vehicle emissions rules, a government official briefed on the matter said.

"Once the agencies formally unveil the proposal, the public will have a chance to weigh in, with those comments used to develop a final rule that could be implemented as soon as the end of the year", writes Bloomberg.

According to Bloomberg, President Trump will seek to ease future fuel economy regulations by directing the Environmental Protection Agency to revoke the Clean Air Act waiver that allows the state of California to impose its own tailpipe rules. This will be a frontal assault on one of the previous administration's signature policies to cut down greenhouse gas emissions.

The proposal would also freeze federal requirements on fuel economy at a fleet-average 35 miles per gallon by 2020, rather than allowing that figure to climb to 50 mpg by 2025 as it is now set to do. The automakers say the California Air Resources Board rules for vehicle model years 2022-2025 are onerous and impractical, despite a CARB analysis in 2017 concluding that the standards are technologically feasible.

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The state's 2009 waiver under the Clean Air Act has allowed California to set emissions rules for cars and trucks that are more stringent than the federal government's. Reuters reported previously that the Transportation Department plans to assert in the proposal that California is also barred from setting emissions rules under a 1975 law.

A White House spokeswoman did not immediately respond for comment.

On social media, some noted that Trump's attack on California's ability to regulate emissions on its own roads flies in the face of conservative arguments in favor of "states' rights"-often invoked in debates over states' ability to regulate abortion access and LGBTQ rights, as well as racial integration and slavery in the past".

This change might be targeting California's waiver, but it would also affect more than a dozen other states.

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California is considered an environmentally conscious, "green" state, and the announcement is already being targeted by politicians.

"We have the law on our side, as well as the people of the country and the people of the world", said Dan Sperling, a member of the state's Air Resources Board. More than a dozen states follow California's standards, making for a significant part of the country's auto market.

The administration also contends the new rule would reduce "societal costs" by about $500 billion over the life of the vehicles but the administration's overall forecast net benefits are unclear, once higher fuel consumption is taken into account.

"The big question: Who will the vehicle companies back?"

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"Congress didn't intend for California to set national fuel economy standards", said Steve Milloy, a policy adviser for the Heartland Institute, a group critical of climate science. Although California argues its rules are not fuel economy standards in word or practice, "they are very much related to fuel economy", Holmstead said.