Published: Thu, July 26, 2018
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

EPA chief: U.S. needs a single standard for fuel efficiency

EPA chief: U.S. needs a single standard for fuel efficiency

The Trump administration also has said it's looking at challenging California's authority to set its own, tougher mileage standards.

The formal proposal is expected to drop this week.

The acting head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday that the United States needs a single standard for fuel efficiency for cars and trucks, signaling a possible showdown with California and other states that could throw the auto market into turmoil.

In May, California and a group of 16 other states challenged the Trump administration's decision to reopen strict USA vehicle emissions rules for review. The automakers say the California Air Resources Board rules for vehicle model years 2022-2025 are onerous and impractical, despite a CARB analysis in 2017 concluding that the standards are technologically feasible.

Since 1970, California has had under the federal Clean Air Act the ability to set air pollution standards that are more stringent than the federal government's.

Bloomberg reports that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), which manages a parallel set of emissions rules for passenger vehicles, would also deny California the right to set its own standards.

A legal battle is sure to ensue, so expect to hear much more on the fuel economy front in the coming weeks and months. While they spent the first year of the Trump administration attacking Obama's rules as too costly, they fear the regulatory uncertainty that a years-long court battle over a rollback would create.

The Trump administration proposal will seek to reverse planned hikes in fuel efficiency standards adopted by the Obama administration.

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In 2009, California received a waiver from the EPA, allowing it to set its own limits on greenhouse gases from vehicles, effectively mandating that vehicles sold in California burn less fossil fuel.

However, 16 other states have committed to following California's emissions lead, so it's likely that any attempt to remove California's waiver and replace it with a weaker rule would result in legal challenges from all the states in the union that want a less-polluting vehicle fleet. California Air Resources Board head Mary Nichols declined to comment.

Under President Barack Obama, three disparate sets of fuel efficiency rules were tightened to match those already in place in California.

"We have the law on our side, as well as the people of the country and the people of the world", he said.

"One of the reasons they've been somewhat quiet is because they're torn, " said Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and KBB.com, speaking of the auto companies.

Critics of the Obama era plan to increase average fuel economy to 54.5 mpg have called it a thinly disguised effort to force people to adopt more expensive electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, as the average is hard for automakers to achieve with a model line-up of fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

Public hearings on the proposals have drawn mainly opponents, including scientists and health officials who say the change would throw out bedrock public-health studies that draw on confidential data on individual patients. "National fuel economy standards are set by the federal government so that's what we are going to do".

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