Trump administration seeks to freeze gas mileage standards for new cars
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Trump administration wants to stop requiring automakers to make cars more fuel-efficient beginning in 2020, setting up a potential fight with states that have voluntarily set higher gas mileage standards.
Under the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) set requirements for how much gas per mile new cars should use, saying that the standards would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.
The EPA announced earlier this year that it would re-evaluate that policy to look at whether factors such as gasoline prices have changed enough to change the rule.
The proposal released by the EPA and DOT says the fuel efficiency standards raise prices on new cars, leading more Americans to drive older cars longer and making the roads less safe.
“There’s some tension between calling for ever-increasing fuel efficiency standards on the one hand and the effect it has on highway safety on the other hand,” Bill Wehrum, assistant administrator in the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, told reporters.
Heidi King, deputy administrator of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, said the administration is excited about the idea of getting more modern cars on the road to replace older, less-efficient ones.
“The source of the safety benefits is from getting folks into affordable, more fuel-efficient, cleaner, safer cars,” she told reporters.
Environmental groups who support the gas mileage standards that aimed to reduce air pollution slammed the proposal.
“The Trump administration’s proposal to slam the brakes on America’s successful Clean Car Standards is a massive pileup of bad ideas,” Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp said in a statement. “This proposal will substantially increase pollution and will cost the average American family hundreds of dollars a year extra for gas.”
“It’s a proposal that attacks the states’ right to protect people from dangerous pollution, one that no one — not the American public, not the states, not even most automakers — really wants, and one that’s being presented to the public under the false and easily discredited guise of improving public safety,” the statement continued.
Another potential wrench in the proposal is that California and several other states have voluntarily adopted higher gas mileage standards, setting up a conflict between automakers that want a uniform standard for all states.
California officials have said that they will sue if the federal government tries to force the state to lower its standard.
But Andrew Wheeler, acting chief of the EPA, told lawmakers on Wednesday that he doesn’t want the federal standard to contradict states that want to require higher gas mileage.
“It’s my goal, and this administration’s goal, to come up with a 50-state solution, and we want to have a 50-state solution that does not necessitate pre-empting California. However, it’s important there’s a number of goals amid the proposal and there’s important goals on highway safety, so we’d have to make sure that those are met,” Wheeler told a Senate committee on Wednesday.
The proposal, released Thursday, will be available for public comment for 60 days. The EPA and DOT plan to hold three public hearings to hear testimony on the issue.
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