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Administration's 'own numbers don't even support' fuel-efficiency proposal

03 August 2018

Setting up a showdown with California, the Trump administration on Thursday announced a plan to revoke a signature Obama-era environmental regulation.

California joined 16 other states and the District of Columbia in suing the EPA in May, asking the court to review the EPA's proposed actions.

The administration's proposal asserts that "attempting to solve climate change, even in part" is "fundamentally different" from the Clean Air Act's "original goal of addressing smog-related air quality problems". "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 to the New York Times.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and EPA Chief Andrew Wheeler released a joint press statement Thursday under the heading "Make Cars Great Again".

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Most importantly, it also wants to strip California of its unique right to set more restrictive standards than the federal government-a deal written into the Clean Air Act because the state had been regulating smog long before the federal law existed. Under the Obama administration, automakers were required to reach a fleetwide average fuel economy for all cars and light trucks of 51.4 miles per gallon by 2025.

Easing requirements that cars be more fuel efficient should make them both cheaper and safer, getting vehicles with the latest safety developments in the hands of consumers, officials said. "In short, the agencies propose to maintain one national standard - a standard that is set exclusively by the Federal government". "I feel like we have a very good and strong case", state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.

The administration said meeting the current standards for model year 2021 through 2025 vehicles would increase costs for automakers, which will then be passed on to consumers.

"Automakers support continued improvements in fuel economy and flexibilities that incentivize advanced technologies while balancing priorities like affordability, safety, jobs, and the environment".

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Under the Obama administration's Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, new cars sold in the US must average about 54 miles per gallon by 2025.

The EPA and NHTSA are giving the public 60 days to provide feedback to the new proposal. And with President Donald Trump in the White House, the group would need a veto-proof majority to prevent the changes from going forward, should they actually receive and win a floor vote. They are gearing up for a legal and political battle, particularly over the California waiver. "The Trump administration has launched a brazen attack, no matter how it is cloaked, on our nation's clean auto standards", Becerra said on Twitter.

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". A dozen other states and Washington DC also follow higher standards. Now they're only about one-third, with less-efficient trucks and SUVS making up the rest.

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Administration's 'own numbers don't even support' fuel-efficiency proposal