Trump administration ends talks with California over car emissions rule
BY TIMOTHY CAMA
The Trump administration says it has cut off negotiations with California officials over the future of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency rules for cars.
In a joint statement, the White House, Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the talks with California Air Resources Board (CARB) had not been fruitful, adding that the Trump administration will move forward with its plan to roll back the pollution standards.
“Despite the administration’s best efforts to reach a common-sense solution, it is time to acknowledge that CARB has failed to put forward a productive alternative since the SAFE Vehicles Rule was proposed,” the administration officials said, referring to the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicle Rule, the proposal last year to repeal plans to increase the stringency of efficiency and emissions standards for newly-built vehicles.
“Accordingly, the administration is moving forward to finalize a rule later this year with the goal of promoting safer, cleaner, and more affordable vehicles,” the officials said.
Acting EPA chief Andrew Wheeler told Bloomberg Television this month that the parties were “far apart” in negotiations.
“We certainly hope to have a 50-state solution but at the end of the day we have to move forward with regulation,” he said. “California is an important player — an important part of this — but this is not a two-sided negotiation for a national standard.”
Last year’s proposal would freeze vehicle standards next year, canceling plans to make them more stringent through 2026. Those standards envisioned new cars getting an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2026.
The auto industry has endorsed the attempts by the EPA and DOT to weaken standards set by the Obama administration, saying that they are not achievable at an affordable cost.
But automakers also object to completely freezing the standards, saying that they should continue to get stronger, just not at the previously set rate.
California has the authority to set its own greenhouse gas rules for cars under the Clean Air Act and a waiver granted by the Obama administration. Thirteen states follow California’s standards for cars sold in their borders, representing about 40 percent of the nation’s vehicle market.
California is aligned with the current federal rules, thanks to regulators’ previous negotiations.
But last year’s proposal to roll back the the standards would have ended California’s waiver, under the argument that it is illegal.
State officials have threatened to sue if the proposal was finalized. Meanwhile, they and the Trump administration have been negotiating for months toward a middle ground that would avoid California attempting to set its own stricter standards or a lawsuit from the Golden State that could take years to resolve — both outcomes that the auto industry wants to avoid.
CARB didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the Thursday announcement.