Trump proposes U.S. car-mileage rollback; states sue in protest

Katie Ramirez
August 3, 2018

US President Donald Trump's administration announced a proposal on Thursday (Aug 2) to roll back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards, likely sparking a legal fight with California and other states that favour more aggressive environmental policies.

© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The administration's proposal would freeze USA mileage standards at 2020 levels, when the new vehicle fleet will be required to hit an average of 30 miles per gallon in real-world driving.

While the new standard is significantly lower than Obama's 2025 target of 54 miles per gallon, the difference is expected to have a minimal impact on climate.

- State prosecutors from California to MA blasted the Trump administration Thursday for proposing weaker auto fuel-efficiency standards they said would imperil clean air and increase greenhouse gases.

The administration's rule aims to preempt California's Clean Air Act (CAA) waiver and argues that it should be pulled entirely.

California has a lot riding on the lawsuit as the government is also seeking to eliminate the state's ability to set its own vehicle standards.

The state coalition, led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, includes legal representatives from jurisdictions that have adopted California's more stringent vehicle emissions standards.

"For an administration that is happy to let states set their own rules when it comes to weakening environmental protection, it's the height of hypocrisy to deny California and a dozen other states their right to protect their people from global warming", Becker said in a statement. "We are prepared to go to court to put the brakes on this reckless and illegal plan". Jerry Brown said in a statement that the state "will fight this stupidity in every conceivable way possible".

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Public health experts and environmental groups condemned the White House proposal even before its official release, arguing that it overlooks how much money Americans would save at the pump if cars were more efficient and also squanders a chance to cut pollution from the transportation sector, which has become the nation's largest source of carbon dioxide emissions. "This program has sparked innovations resulting in cars and trucks that are cleaner, safer, faster and offer more comforts and luxuries, all while saving consumers billions", said David Friedman, vice president, advocacy, for Consumer Reports and the former interim head of NHTSA under the Obama administration.

Besides, California - which is essentially now a foreign country - should not control the auto market and decide pollution and mileage standards for the rest of the country.

Automakers, represented by the Auto Alliance and Global Automakers, said they support "substantive negotiations" about fuel efficiency standards.

The auto industry, which has often baulked at the higher costs associated with the tougher U.S. standards, strongly backs a national standard that could be negotiated between Washington and California.

The attorneys general of 20 states, including California, pledged to sue the administration.

As auto manufacturers boosted fuel economy across their fleets, incremental improvements have become more costly and complicated while returns have diminished, the agencies say. It said the freeze would boost US oil consumption by around 500,000 barrels of oil a day by the 2030s, decrease vehicle-related fatalities by encourage consumers to buy new, safer cars - Autoblog scrutinizes that claim here - and lower projected regulatory costs for automakers by $319 billion through 2029.

It argued that this policy change was necessary because the Obama administration's standards "raised the cost and decreased the supply of newer, safer vehicles". It would also move to end California's current power to set its own, higher standards.

Heidi King, deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said the freeze would reduce highway deaths by 1,000 per year 'by reducing these barriers that prevent consumers from getting into the newer, safer, cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars'.

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