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California finalizes fuel efficiency deal with five automakers, undercutting Trump

California on Monday finalized fuel efficiency agreements with five automakers in an attempt to undercut the Trump administration’s rollback of Obama-era standards.

As part of the deal, BMW, Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and Volvo agreed to annual fuel economy improvements that hew more closely to those required under the Obama administration compared with the less stringent ones just finalized.

The deal represents a blow to the Trump administration, which has revoked the waiver California relied on to set stricter auto emissions standards that were in turn adopted by more than a dozen other states. 

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“Instead of propelling our country toward the clean cars of the future, the Trump administration’s failure to lead on this issue has left American workers and automakers behind. While the administration created a void of leadership, vision and direction, the state of California and automakers came together in these voluntary agreements that provide a path forward to support the clean cars of the future,” Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Kerry says Paris climate deal alone 'is not enough' | EPA halts planned Taiwan trip for Wheeler| EPA sued over rule extending life of toxic coal ash ponds Overnight Energy: Biden names John Kerry as 'climate czar' | GM reverses on Trump, exits suit challenging California's tougher emissions standards | United Nations agency says greenhouse gas emissions accumulating despite lockdown decline GSA transition delay 'poses serious risk' to Native Americans, Udall says MORE (D-Del.) said in a release, encouraging other automakers to follow suit. 

The Trump administration in March announced it would require automakers to produce a fleet averaging 40 mpg by 2026 instead of the previous requirement under the Obama administration to reach 55 mpg by 2025. 

The new agreements finalized by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) give automakers until 2026 to produce fleets averaging 51 mpg. 

Still, some environmental groups were hoping California would chart a more ambitious course. 

“While this deal is a positive interim step, we need bolder action to prevent us driving off the carbon cliff,” Katherine Hoff, a lawyer with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. 

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“To meet California’s own climate goals and to be the model the world needs, CARB must lead the way quickly in making 100 percent zero-emission vehicle sales the standard by 2030,” she added.

News of California’s effort to strike a more environmentally friendly deal with automakers first broke in July of last year, shortly after the Trump administration revoked the state's waiver. 

California’s roughly 40 million residents give it large sway in the market, something the state has not been shy about using to promote its interests, including efforts to battle climate change.

The Obama administration estimated that its fuel efficiency standards would have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 6 billion metric tons over the course of the program.

The Trump administration’s emissions standards fall below what automakers have said is possible for them to achieve. Its regulations require 1.5 percent year-over-year improvements, while automakers have said they could improve fuel economy by 2 percent each year.

Automakers that have not signed a deal with California have also signaled interest in fighting the Trump standards, filing a motion to intervene in a lawsuit from a conservative group that argued the regulations were too rigorous.