The coalition of states led by California, which had sought more stringent standards, agreed to set its requirements at the same levels.
The national greenhouse gas emission targets that were a signature element of former President Barack Obama's climate-change policy are too aggressive, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt said in a statement Monday outlining the decision.
California has refused to budge from the standards put in place by Obama.
The announcement will affect vehicles for model years 2022 through 2025. Following the review, the EPA has determined "In light of recent data, the current standards are not appropriate and should be revised". However, the EPA under the previous Administration didn't hang around, and completed the MTE by January 12, 2017. The so-called corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE standards, are now set to jump to about 50 miles per gallon by 2025, presenting an engineering challenge to the US automotive industry.
Under the rules, fleet-wide vehicle averages would've had to hit about 50 miles per gallon by 2025. That would be based on all vehicles in the cars and light trucks categories across an automaker's line-up.
But now, automakers appear to worry the administration may be going too far.
California has been able to impose stricter standards for vehicle emissions of certain pollutants than federal requirements thanks to a Clean Air Act waiver granted previously by EPA. Automakers had hoped for a slight loosening which might prove palatable to California, but the reality may well be that the EPA's new goals and those of the green-minded state are wildly different.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the EPA's "assault" on CAFE standards "risks our ability to protect our children's health, tackle climate change and save hardworking Americans money". Twelve other states already follow those rules.
For instance, automakers had chafed at being held responsible for how green the production of electricity charging EVs was, arguing that it was a factor beyond its control.
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"We support increasing clean vehicle standards through 2025 and are not asking for a rollback", said Bill Ford, executive chairman of the Ford Motor Company, and Jim Hackett, the company's CEO, in a blog post last week. As is now the case, automakers will find it hard - and costly - to develop two different classes of vehicles, one to meet the EPA's lower target and the other to comply with California's standards.
"MEMA strongly supports a One National Program with the EPA". Ceres cited a letter that 46 large companies, including Unilever and Nestle, sent to Pruitt in March urging the government to leave standards alone.
"This decision takes the USA auto industry backward, and we will vigorously defend the existing clean vehicle standards and fight to preserve one national clean vehicle program", she said, adding that the EPA's decision "changes nothing in California and the 12 other states with clean-car rules that reduce emissions and improve gas mileage - those rules remain in place".
While he may be talking about cooperation with California, it's clear Pruitt's EPA isn't happy with the state's independence under the CAA. On Monday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the agency will revise the rules, Reuters reported, citing EPA spokesperson Liz Bowman.
The current emissions standards were approved by the Obama-era EPA in December 2016, two years ahead of time and just before the Trump administration took office.
"This is a politically motivated effort to weaken clean vehicle standards with no documentation, evidence or law to back up that decision", Mary Nichols, head of the California Air Resources Board, said in a statement. The standards had been years in the making, requiring research and discussions between policymakers and auto industry representatives.