By The Associated Press
Environmental regulators announced on Monday they will ease emissions standards for cars and trucks, saying that a timeline put in place by President Obama was not appropriate and set standards "too high."
The Environmental Protection Agency said it completed a review that will affect vehicles for model years 2022-2025. Current regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency require the fleet of new vehicles to get 36 miles per gallon in real-world driving by 2025. That's about 10 mpg over the existing standard.
Automakers have lobbied to revisit the requirements set by the Obama administration, saying the standards will cost the industry billions of dollars and raise vehicle prices due to the cost of developing technology needed to raise mileage. They applauded Monday's decision, calling it "data-driven" and key to keeping cars affordable.
"Consumer research shows that the monthly payment is the top concern when car-shopping. So, to ensure ongoing fuel economy improvement, the wisest course of action is to keep new vehicles affordable so more consumers can replace an older car with a new vehicle that uses much less fuel -- and offers more safety features," said Gloria Bergquist, vice president, communications and public affairs for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
Any change is likely to set up a lengthy legal showdown with California, which has the power to set its own pollution and gas mileage standards and doesn't want them to change. About a dozen other states follow California's rules, and together they account for more than one-third of the vehicles sold in the US. Currently the federal and California standards are the same.
Some conservative groups are pressing EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to get rid of the waiver. Pruitt said in a statement Monday that the agency will work with all states, including California, to finalize new standards.
"Cooperative federalism doesn't mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country," he said. "EPA will set a national standard for greenhouse gas emissions that allows auto manufacturers to make cars that people both want and can afford -- while still expanding environmental and safety benefits of newer cars."
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said his team is reviewing the EPA's determination and working closely with the California Air Resources Board.
"We're ready to file suit if needed to protect these critical standards and to fight the Administration's war on our environment," Becerra said in a statement. "California didn't become the sixth-largest economy in the world by spectating."
Meanwhile environmentalists warned the proposed rollbacks will make U.S. cars more expensive to fill up.
"No one in America is eager to buy a car that gets worse gas mileage and spews more pollution from its tailpipe," Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, said. "Designing and building cleaner, more cost-efficient cars is what helped automakers bounce back from the depths of the recession and will be key to America's global competitiveness in the years ahead."
Senator Edward J. Markey said the existing standards are "technically feasible and economically achievable," and added that he would use every legislative tool to block the moves.
"Slashing these standards would amount to turning the keys to our energy policy over to Big Oil and the auto industry," said the Massachusetts Democrat, who is a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee and chair of the Senate Climate Task Force.
According to Markey, the standards are projected to save nearly 2.5 million barrels of oil a day by 2030, around as much oil as is imported from OPEC countries every day.