19 states vow to sue over proposed fuel efficiency rollbacks

Audrey Hill
August 4, 2018

Less than a full day after the federal government announced its intention to freeze fuel-economy and tailpipe emissions standards, a number of states are ready to take this proposal to court.

Becerra and attorneys general from 16 other states sued in May to stop the EPA from scrapping standards that would have required vehicles by 2025 to achieve 36 miles per gallon (58 kilometers per gallon) in real-world driving, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) over the existing standards.

The proposal to roll back anti-pollution efforts is in line with President Donald Trump's decision past year to abandon the 2015 Paris Agreement, under which countries agreed to take steps to mitigate global warming. More than a dozen states follow California's standards, amounting to about 40 percent of the country's new-vehicle market. This, Chao and Wheeler argued, "strikes the appropriate regulatory balance between vehicle improvements, environmental benefits and safety".

Thirteen states, plus Washington, DC, have adopted California's standards.

The Obama-era rules also drove vehicle prices higher, since prior estimates fell short of what incremental improvements to fuel efficiency actually cost. In addition, it wants to do away with California's exemption to set its own standards. The administration's assertion that lighter, more fuel efficient cars are more unsafe has been disputed by transport experts.

"To the Trump administration: make no mistake about it - we are ready to use every legal tool at our disposal to protect the current vehicle emission standards", Becerra said July 19, responding to reports the waiver might be revoked.

The rulemaking proposal also calls for one national standard and proposes to withdraw California's Clean Air Act Preemption Waiver, which already drew angry reactions from California.

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The Trump administration's proposal would freeze fuel-efficiency standards at 2020 levels - about 37 miles per gallon by 2026, down from the Obama administration's almost 47 mpg - and weaken electric vehicle mandates.

Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups argue the move will harm the environment, however.

If the proposed rule becomes final, it could roil the auto industry as it prepares for new model years and weaken one of the federal government's chief weapons against climate change - regulating emissions from cars and other vehicles. Electric cars and trucks still account for a tiny fraction of those sold, and driver preference for SUVs, along with relatively low gas prices, have inhibited progress there.

Deputy Administrator of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration Heidi King said the average vehicle on the road in the U.S.is 12 years old and that the proposed rule would mean fewer accidents and injuries.

U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal, who represents Long Beach, noted this last week in a post on social media where he cast the White House's plan to freeze fuel efficiency standards as a "bitter misguided attack" on both California and the environment.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in a statement Thursday that there is no need to change the standards, and that the state is "not going to let him" change its emissions standards. The proposal also claims it will save up to 1,000 lives a year by encouraging people to buy safer, newer cars to replace older, less-safe cars. They've argued that the Obama-era standards Trump proposes to sweep aside are outdated, established when the USA was over-reliant on foreign oil, and that they don't reflect huge increases in US exports of crude oil and petroleum products since then. "Kicking California bullies out of the fuel economy playground will expand consumer choice, while making new cars more affordable".

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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