House Democrats push automakers to rebuff Trump, join California's fuel efficiency deal

House Democrats push automakers to rebuff Trump, join California's fuel efficiency deal
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Eight House Democrats are pushing automakers to join several fellow vehicle manufacturers in signing a deal with California that would sideline the Trump administration as it works to roll back fuel efficiency standards for vehicles. 

In a letter to 14 automakers on Wednesday, Democrats from the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition pleaded with them to join the deal, calling it “an important alternative to the administration's proposal to gut public health protections, reduce climate pollution, and create regulatory certainty for automakers.”

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The deal between the California Air Resources Board and Honda, Volkswagen, Ford and BMW of North America gives the companies an extra year to meet standards that are nearly as ambitious as those developed under former President Obama.

Under the July deal manufacturers would produce vehicles that could average 50 mpg by 2026, undercutting efforts by the Trump administration to freeze standards at 37 mpg.

The letter from House Democrats follows an earlier one signed by 30 Senate Democrats that also encouraged other automakers to join the deal.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which develops the fuel efficiency standards alongside the Environmental Protection Agency, did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The battle between California and the Trump administration over the standards has been a long one. 

The Obama-era standards that Trump seeks to roll back were designed to end dueling federal and state fuel standards.

California has set more rigorous standards of its own for decades, and many states have likewise adopted them — a practice allowed under federal law.

At a June hearing on the topic, several lawmakers encouraged the Trump administration to go back to the negotiating table with California after discussions between the two parties stalled. 

Though unclear if other automakers might be interested in joining the California deal, many have have publicly opposed the Trump administration's proposal. 

If they do sign on, it could give California greater leverage in its battle with the Trump administration. The House letter was sent to companies ranging from Subaru to Aston Martin.

The Trump administration has argued that lower fuel standards will make cars more affordable, helping consumers purchase new cars that are safer and more fuel efficient than what they are currently driving.

But critics see it as a way to fast track emissions from the largest sector of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. as well as a handout to the oil industry.

"A reasonable observer would be forgiven for seeing an Administration so blinded by contempt for its predecessors and so willing to hurt consumers to support oil companies at any cost that it would defy science and common sense to move forward with a proposal with near universal condemnation from stakeholders,” Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoLawmakers criticize EPA draft rule for curbing rights to challenge pollution permits House Democrats push automakers to rebuff Trump, join California's fuel efficiency deal Overnight Energy: Democrats seek help in appealing to conservatives on climate | Whistleblowers say Interior sidelined scientists | Automakers strike fuel efficiency deal with California in rebuff to Trump MORE (D-N.Y.) said at the June hearing.