Published: Fri, August 03, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

US EPA head wants auto industry, states to compromise on emissions

US EPA head wants auto industry, states to compromise on emissions

Trump in March 2017 announced his administration would be reopening a review of the Obama automobile rules that he and some automakers said was unfairly cut short by Obama's EPA. "Households don't have a choice in what they pay at the pump so they need fuel efficient choices at the dealership, whether it's a vehicle, truck or SUV".

Two former EPA mileage officials said the administration's proposal departed from years of findings on fuel efficiency, vehicle safety, exhaust emissions and costs.

"Our current analysis shows that we get substantial improvement in vehicle highway safety, and you know when you monetize the improvement in highway safety and compare that to the monetized value of environmental health and safety control, the highway safety numbers swamp the environmental numbers", William Wehrum, EPA's assistant administrator for air and radiation, told reporters on Thursday.

But in a statement published on The Wall Street Journal's website Thursday, Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao and acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said that the Obama-era standards would "impose significant costs on American consumers and eliminate jobs".

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The agencies also proposed to revoke California's authority under the Clean Air Act that had allowed the state to set more stringent rules than federal ones limiting tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions as well as an electric-vehicle sales mandate.

The proposalargues that forcing automakers to reach a fleet-wide average of 51.4 miles per gallon by 2025, as the Obama administration required, would make vehicles more expensive and encourage people to stick to driving older, less-safe cars and trucks.The administration estimates that halting more ambitous fuel efficiency targets would save Americans thousands of dollars on every new vehicle purchased and avoid 1,000 road deaths a year. That ignores the fact that more fuel-efficient vehicles are cheaper to operate since drivers have to buy less gas. "In short, the agencies propose to maintain one national standard - a standard that is set exclusively by the Federal government".

General Motors said in a statement that it wants to work "with all parties to achieve one national 50-state program", adding that it was committed to "continually improving fuel economy and our commitment to an all-electric future".

The proposal still needs to go through a public comment period before it can go into effect.

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The Obama-era rules also drove vehicle prices higher, since prior estimates fell short of what incremental improvements to fuel efficiency actually cost. They called the plan illegal, saying it would force motorists to pay more for gas and create more air pollution. "Maine wants cleaner cars nationwide because upwind pollution matters so much to us, so we've done our part by using the best clean vehicle standards available".

The rollback would undermine efforts by California and several other states to meet commitments the USA made in the Paris agreement on climate change. In 2012, the Obama administration directed automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new vehicles by 2025.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a main industry group, sought to stave off any dispute between California and the federal government that could split the USA auto market: "We urge California and the federal government to find a common sense solution that sets continued increases in vehicle efficiency standards while also meeting the needs of American drivers". "Their own numbers don't even support what I consider the deceptive messaging they're trying to pass on to people". Now they're only about one-third, with less-efficient trucks and SUVS making up the rest.

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