WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration will announce as early as Wednesday it is revoking California’s authority to set its own vehicle greenhouse gas standards and blocking states from setting tailpipe emission rules — a move that will spark a furious legal challenge, two auto industry officials said on Tuesday.
FILE PHOTO: Reacquired Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars sit in a desert graveyard near Victorville, California, U.S. March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Trump met with senior officials last Thursday and agreed to greenlight the plan to bar California from setting fuel efficiency standards or requiring zero emission vehicles, Reuters reported last week. The White House declined to comment.
The administration plans to issue separate rules rolling back Obama-era fuel economy requirements in the coming weeks. A formal announcement is tentatively set for Wednesday at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) headquarters and automakers and dealers have been invited to attend, industry officials said.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, speaking to a group of auto dealers, said Tuesday that “in the very near future, the Trump administration will begin taking the steps necessary to establish one set of national fuel-economy standards.”
Under Trump, federal regulators have backed freezing emissions requirements for new cars and trucks at 2020 levels through 2026. Administration officials say its final regulation will include a modest boost in annual efficiency requirements but far less than what the Obama administration set in 2012.
The Obama-era rules called for a fleetwide fuel efficiency average of 46.7 miles per gallon by 2025, with average annual increases of about 5%, compared with 37 mpg by 2026 under the Trump administration’s preferred option to freeze requirements.
Wheeler said the EPA would take action “very soon” with the U.S. Transportation Department “to bring clarity to the proper – and improper – scope and use of the Clean Air Act preemption waiver.”
Reuters has previously reported the administration plans to revoke the waiver California received in 2013 to set its own vehicle emissions standards that are followed by more than a dozen other states.
California has vowed to challenge the Trump administration effort, arguing that the United States has an obligation to protect the environment for future generations.
Wheeler on Tuesday said California’s ability to address smog and other forms of air pollution caused by motor vehicles would not be affected.
“One national standard will provide much-needed regulatory certainty to automakers, dealers, and consumers,” he said.
To meet the Obama-era rules, automakers might have been forced to lower the price of electric vehicles and “raise the price of other, more popular vehicles, such as SUVs and trucks,” Wheeler added.
“In other words, American families are paying more for SUVs and trucks so automakers can sell EVs at a cheaper price.”
Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Tom Brown