Energy & Environment

EPA decides not to weaken car efficiency rules


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) won’t weaken the car fuel efficiency standards it set in 2012, despite pleas from the auto industry.

The EPA proposed Wednesday a formal finding that the standards should remain in place and do not need to be revised for the model years 2022 to 2025.

{mosads}The proposal is part of a review that the EPA is undertaking to determine whether President Obama’s historic car efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions rules, which target an average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon in 2025, are still attainable and sufficient.

“It’s clear from the extensive technical record that this program will remain affordable and effective,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement.

“This proposed decision reconfirms our confidence in the auto industry’s capacity to drive innovation and strengthen the American economy while saving drivers money at the pump and safeguarding our health, climate and environment,” she said.

The EPA’s decision is not permanent, and President-elect Donald Trump’s administration may reverse course and roll back the standards.

The determination is based on an extensive, years-long research and analysis process. That process was summarized in July in an EPA report that concluded that automakers are capable of meeting the standards through 2025, though the car fleet is unlikely to hit the 54.5 mile-per-gallon goal that Obama had set out.

It’s a loss for automakers, who had complained that the EPA’s projections were too rosy, and compliance going forward would be much more expensive than the EPA thought.

“Rather than asking whether the auto industry can build a vehicle that achieves MY2025 compliance, the agencies should be asking whether the auto industry will be able to sell a fleet of vehicles that meet these future targets,” the Auto Alliance wrote to the EPA in response to its July report.

“The Alliance has done an extensive analysis of the matter, concluding that compliance with the MY2022-2025 standards will require a much higher and earlier deployment of more expensive technologies, with far higher levels of electrification than suggested in the [July report],” it said.

The Auto Alliance asked Trump shortly after Election Day to weaken efficiency rules, citing similar objections.

Environmental groups cheered the EPA’s determination Wednesday.

“Automakers have the technology to meet the standards through 2025,” said Luke Tonachel, director for clean vehicles at the Natural Resources Defense Council, citing the July report.

“So there’s no evidence we should slow down. Loosening standards would only cost consumers more, increase our dependence on oil and put Americans at greater risk from a changing climate.”

Shannon Baker-Branstetter, energy policy counsel for Consumers Union, said in statement that the EPA’s decision is a big win for consumers.

“Strong fuel economy standards means consumers will have a greater choice of vehicles to meet their family’s needs, while saving money on fuel costs and protecting against future gas price shocks,” she said.

The EPA, which implements the efficiency standards jointly with the Department of Transportation, will take comments from the public for 30 days on the proposed finding before it makes the finding permanent.

Tags car efficiency Donald Trump Environmental Protection Agency Fuel efficiency Gina McCarthy

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