Trump plans to revoke California fuel economy standards

The Trump administration plans to set a nationwide standard for automotive emissions and fuel economy, depriving California of the waiver that allows it to set its own standards, according to an administration official. The proposal is expected some time this month from the Environmental Protection Agency.

California has had stricter fuel economy and auto emissions standards for decades. The state’s laws were enacted before the passage of the Clean Air Act to curb the automobile air pollution in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Congress granted California a waiver to make stricter standards law in the state for public health reasons. 

Twelve states and the District of Columbia chose to adopt the California standards, too. The different standards have meant that automakers who want to sell cars in these states either must manufacture two sets of cars — those that meet the California standards and those that meet the looser national standards — or they could follow the California standards for all their cars. Some have already decided to side with California.

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In July, four automakers — Ford, BMW, Honda and Volkswagen — signed a deal with California to meet more stringent pollution and mileage standards than the Trump administration is proposing. 

President Trump has pushed for months to weaken Obama-era mileage standards nationwide. Any administration moves to rescind authority that Congress granted probably would end up in court. When President George W. Bush challenged California’s greenhouse gas emissions and mileage-setting ability, California fought it. The Obama administration subsequently dropped the Bush effort.

The Trump plan would have to be posted in the Federal Register and would be subject to public comment. His administration has tried to ease or remove scores of environmental regulations that it regards as unnecessary and burdensome. The tougher mileage standards were a key part of the Obama administration’s efforts to reduce climate-changing fossil fuel emissions.

The administration has sought to freeze Obama-era standards, keeping fleetwide new-vehicle mileage at 2021 levels of about 30 mpg. The administration argues that the extra expense to comply with the requirements will raise the price of new cars, making them unaffordable and depriving buyers of new safety technology. Many experts, including former EPA engineers, have challenged the administration’s safety assertion.

Arden Farhi contributed to this report.

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