EPA expected to declare Obama car efficiency rules too strict

EPA expected to declare Obama car efficiency rules too strict
© Greg Nash

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to declare that the Obama administration's fuel efficiency rules for cars are too strict, two people familiar with the matter said.

The determination, due to be proposed this week, would side with the argument automakers have been making for years. They say that the EPA’s vehicle greenhouse gas standards and the related Department of Transportation efficiency standards for model years 2022 through 2025 need to be revised.

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It would also open the door for the EPA to weaken the standards and set up a likely confrontation with California, whose regulators have decided to retain the strict standards that they negotiated with the Obama administration.

EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Watchdog opens investigation into Interior chief | Judge halts Pruitt truck pollution rule decision | Winners, losers in EPA, Interior spending bill amendments Sanders endures press grilling over Russia Court blocks EPA policy against enforcing truck pollution rule MORE has yet to determine what the 2022 through 2025 standards should be, which is a separate process.

The EPA did not respond to a request for comment. EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told Bloomberg News, which first reported the expected determination, that the agency recently sent the proposed finding to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for final review, but did not divulge the content of the finding.

The OMB said Monday that it received the proposal.

Stanley Young, a spokesman for California’s Air Resources Board, said the news is troubling.

“California paved the way for a single national program and is fully committed to maintaining it,” he said in a statement. “This rumored finding — if official — places that program in jeopardy. We feel strongly that weakening the program will waste fuel, increase emissions, and cost consumers more money.”

The current rules came from a major 2011 agreement among the Obama administration, California and the automakers, who had just recently avoided collapse thanks largely to government bailouts. It envisions an average fuel economy among new cars of nearly 50 miles per gallon by 2025.

Part of the deal was a midterm evaluation by the EPA, due this year, into whether the 2022 through 2025 standards are still achievable.

The Obama administration worked to complete that evaluation in the final weeks before President TrumpDonald John TrumpIran claims it rejected Trump meeting requests 8 times ESPY host jokes Putin was as happy after Trump summit as Ovechkin winning Stanley Cup Russian ambassador: Trump made ‘verbal agreements’ with Putin MORE’s inauguration last year, concluding that the upcoming standards should stay in place.

Automakers, represented by the Auto Alliance and Global Automakers, cried foul and asked the Trump administration to redo the process, resulting in this week’s determination.