The Trump administration is looking to change a rule that allows California to regulate vehicle emissions for residents and freeze fuel efficiency standards at a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon rather than allowing the standard to rise to 50 miles per gallon by 2025.
The Environmental Protection Agency will ask to revoke a federal Clean Air Act waiver empowering California to set vehicle emissions standards, and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will argue that a 1975 fuel efficiency law prevents the state from regulating greenhouse gas emissions, according to Bloomberg News.
The Clean Air Act is President Barack Obama’s signature environmental policy, and the Trump administration move could set off a chain reaction of litigation, the outlet reported.
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 currently set to do.
Trump’s Office of Management and Budget is reviewing the proposal, a draft of which is expected to be released this week for public review. The plan could be finalized by the end of the year, Bloomberg reported.
Proponents are expected to argue that the rollback will make it cheaper and easier to replace old cars, which will in turn reduce traffic fatalities, Bloomberg reported, citing three people familiar with the plan.
Detractors say the scheme is an infringement on states’ rights and bad for Americans’ health.
Automakers are ambivalent about the reform, citing regulatory uncertainty as a problem.
Caught somewhere in the middle are automakers, which in recent months have stressed they would not support freezing the federal targets and want Washington and Sacramento to continue linking their vehicle-efficiency goals. Though they spent the first year of the Trump administration attacking Obama’s rules as too costly, they fear the regulatory uncertainty that a years-long court battle over a rollback would create. In addition, other major auto markets such as China and Europe are pressing forward with tougher mandates of their own for cleaner cars.
“This is nothing less than an outrageous attack on public health and states’ rights,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. “It’s a dumb move for an administration that claims it wants peace, because this will lead to an emissions war: progressive states versus a reactionary federal government. The big question: Who will the car companies back?
California is forcing automakers to sell more electric cars in the state, despite their huge price tag and dubious performance. They would love to have to comply with just one standard coast to coast, but many states would balk at the more stringent California rules.
This could be one of the administration’s most significant regulatory rollbacks yet. But challenges to changing the rules are likely to take years, easily stretching into Trump’s second term — if he gets one.