Trump Administration Looks to Significantly Amend Emissions Rules

Trump seeking to limit California's power to regulate emissions

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 formal proposal is expected to drop this week.

President Donald Trump's administration is advancing a plan to freeze fuel-economy standards for new cars and trucks, and to escalate its fight against California's power to set regulatory standards for the entire US auto market, according to people familiar with the matter.

Expanding on this, the Obama administration allowed the state to regulate greenhouse gas emissions for cars on its own terms.

The Obama administration had proposed a tougher standard requiring a corporate average fuel economy of 54.5 mpg, which in real world numbers is closer to the low 40 mpg range, a number automakers have said they can meet. 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. It will also seek to block the renewal of the so-called "California Waiver" granted by the EPA with the adoption of the 1975 Clean Air Act that allows California to adopt stricter vehicle emissions standards than those set by the federal government. 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.

A legal battle is sure to ensue, so expect to hear much more on the fuel economy front in the coming weeks and months.

Messages seeking comment from OMB, NHTSA and the EPA were not immediately returned.

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Carmakers have said they do not support an emissions standards freeze and would prefer state and federal lawmakers work together, because they fear regulatory uncertainty as California and the feds duke it out in court.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has sharply criticized efforts to roll back mileage standards, adding the state would file suit against any effort to revoke its waiver.

Eliminating California's electric vehicle mandate would hurt automakers like Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) and General Motors Co (GM.N) that are investing billions in EVs.

And a long legal fight between the state and federal governments could make it hard for the automakers to plan, since the process of designing, engineering and introducing a new vehicle typically takes more than three years, Brauer said. That authority would also be revoked with the Trump administration's action.

"One of the reasons they've been somewhat quiet is because they're torn, " said Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and, speaking of the auto companies.

The administration draft says the proposal would save up to 1,000 highway deaths annually by reducing the cost of new vehicles and prodding people to buy new safer cars faster, the source said. Whether California can argue that economy standards and emissions are tied will determine the overall outcome of the case.

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