Trump may push for post-Pruitt CAFE and emissions rollbacks


The Trump administration has found another bone to pick with their opponents at home: This time, the administration will attempt to remove state emissions standards and force California to accept the weaker federal regulations recommended by the EPA, formerly led by Scott Pruitt.

Jeff Holmstead, a Washington-based lawyer and assistant EPA administrator during the George W. Bush administration, said he has heard the White House will seek public comment on a range of proposals, floating the idea of revoking California's authority but not formally proposing it.

President Donald Trump's administration is advancing a plan to freeze fuel-economy standards for new cars and trucks, and to escalate its fight against California's power to set regulatory standards for the entire US auto market, according to people familiar with the matter.

The move is expected as early as Thursday and will propose revoking California's power to set state vehicle emissions rules and mandate the purchase of electric vehicles, a government official briefed on the matter said and was reported by Reuters. Instead it will cap federal fuel economy requirements at the 2020 level, which under federal law must be at least a 35-mile-per-gallon fleet average, rather than letting them rise to roughly 50 mpg by 2025 as envisioned in the plan left behind by Obama, according to the people. 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. Although other states cannot ask for waivers on their own, if California imposes stricter standards, other states can opt to also implement those same standards above and beyond what federal law requires.

A legal battle is sure to ensue, so expect to hear much more on the fuel economy front in the coming weeks and months. Jerry Brown did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

This would mean a serious knock to the emissions standards California has been trying to set for itself.

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In addition, eliminating California's electric vehicle mandate might hurt automakers like Tesla Inc and General Motors, both companies are investing billions in battery-powered vehicles. That authority would also be revoked with the Trump administration's action.

California and other states have already fired a warning shot.

"The big question: Who will the vehicle companies back?"

The administration draft says the proposal would save up to 1,000 highway deaths annually by reducing the cost of new vehicles and prodding people to buy new safer cars faster, the source said.

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. California and automakers agreed to the rules in 2012, setting a single national fuel economy standard.