U.S. EPA aims to roll back car-mileage standards

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UCLA environmental law professor Ann Carlson says California has received almost 100 such waivers under the Clean Air Act to implement its own standards over the past 50 years. Transportation industry researchers have found that fatalities do increase along with the total number of miles driven, and that future auto buyers are apt to drive more if their cars are more fuel-efficient because they would be cheaper to drive, but experts say they see no reason motorists would suddenly start driving their old cars more.

The Trump administration on Thursday proposed weakening Obama-era mileage standards created to make cars more fuel efficient and less polluting, a major rollback already being challenged in the courts by California and other states.

Department of Transportation Secretary, Elaine L. Chao, praised the proposed rule, stating, "More realistic standards will promote a healthy economy by bringing newer, safer, cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles to USA roads and we look forward to receiving input from the public".

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the state would "use every legal tool at its disposal" to defend the tougher rules.

"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 says in a statement. "It could save up to a thousand lives annually by reducing these barriers that prevent consumers from getting into newer, safer cars". Additionally, a 2018 government study by NHTSA shows new model year vehicles are safer, resulting in fewer deaths and injuries when involved in accidents, as compared to older models.

"Freezing U.S. fuel standards is a gift to China's auto industry", according to Kate Gordon, a non-resident Fellow at the Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy and the author of Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States.

"The Trump Administration should focus on reducing gun violence, not putting untraceable 3D printed "ghost" guns in the hands of unsafe criminals both at home and overseas".

In an editorial in The Wall Street Journal, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler added that the Trump administration was working to support consumer interests with its national proposal.

But the Trump administration has consistently criticized the policy as bad for the auto industry. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

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The Obama administration and the automakers reached an agreement on the emissions and fuel-efficiency standards in 2012.

"The fundamental question associated with this mandate is clear: who should decide what types of cars consumers should buy, consumers themselves or bureaucrats in Sacramento or Washington?" he asked.

The two agencies will gather public comments and hold hearings before the rule changes can be implemented.

The tit-for-tat continues between President Trump and the state of California. "Weakening the standards means that consumers will pay more at the pump, " he said.

President Donald Trump had called a year ago for a review of mileage standards, expressing concern they were hurting employment in the US auto industry. If that were to happen, the plan could end up tangled in litigation for years, leaving automakers caught in regulatory uncertainty.

The federal Clean Air Act (CAA) preserves California's authority to set its own stricter-than-federal vehicle emissions regulations to address the State's extraordinary air quality challenges and because it had vehicle air quality regulations on its books predating the CAA and EPA. California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) asserted that "California will fight this stupidity in every conceivable way possible", and former Obama administration climate change staffer Jody Freeman wrote that the rule "could be the most significant setback for American progress on climate change so far under President Trump". And today, twenty state attorneys general announced their intent to sue the administration over the SAFE Vehicles Rule.

In response to the EPA's formal proposal, the National Automobile Dealers Association said it was supportive of the "extensive work" that went into the decision to roll back Obama guidelines.

"With today's release of the administration's proposals, it's time for substantive negotiations to begin", Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said in a statement.