Published: Fri, August 03, 2018
Research | By Dana Schwartz

Trump proposes car-mileage rollback; states sue in protest

Trump proposes car-mileage rollback; states sue in protest

The new proposal would freeze the standards at the 2020 level - about 37 miles per gallon - a change the Trump administration estimates would increase daily fuel consumption by 2%-3% above forecasts. That would price many buyers out of the new-vehicle market, forcing them to drive older, less-safe vehicles that pollute more, the administration says. The timeline could then align with the finalization of the fuel efficiency changes, as the proposed rule still needs to work its way through a lengthy public comment process. In 2012, the Obama administration directed automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new vehicles by 2025. In 1989, aHarvard-Brookings study estimated that the modest 27.5 mile-per-gallon requirement at the time caused a 14 to 27 percent increase in traffic deaths because carmakers downsized vehicles.

The Trump administration has moved to loosen fuel efficiency regulations, setting up a fight with a coalition of states led by California.

The Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement that relaxing mileage standards in the years ahead would give "the American people greater access to safer, more affordable vehicles that are cleaner for the environment". "This program has sparked innovations resulting in cars and trucks that are cleaner, safer, faster and offer more comforts and luxuries, all while saving consumers billions", said David Friedman, vice president, advocacy, for Consumer Reports and the former interim head of NHTSA under the Obama administration.

Trump administration wants to freeze Obama-era requirements that force automakers to manufacture more fuel-efficient vehicles.

One of the administration's arguments against the 2012 rule is that the cheapest ways for auto makers to achieve fuel efficiency already have been implemented.

"For more than a decade, ME and the other states have used our rights under the Clean Air Act to limit tailpipe pollution beyond federal minimum requirements", Emmie Theberge, federal project director at NRCM, said in a statement.

The attorneys general of 20 states, including California, pledged to sue the administration.

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The states that have adopted California's emission rules together make up about one third of the US auto market.

But private transportation experts say there are so many factors involved that the 1,000-lives figure is questionable. "We have been steadily increasing the standards... for nearly a decade", said EPA Assistant Administrator Bill Wehrum on a call with reporters Thursday.

All of this could be somewhat mitigated if California can set stronger standards; at the moment, the state and federal standard are the same.

The new guidelines will keep standards at 2020 levels until 2026, instead of mandating that they improve over this time period.

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".

The lawsuit filed in May in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia alleged the plan to dump the mileage standards violated the federal Clean Air Act and didn't follow the agency's own regulations. Now they're only about one-third, with less-efficient trucks and SUVS making up the rest.

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