Trump Administration’s EPA Rolls Back Obama-Era Fuel Economy Standards
Agency Also Intends to Remove California-Specific Rules
The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed a new set of rules Thursday that would roll back Obama-era automobile fuel economy standards in the pursuit of lower vehicle costs and increased safety. These changes were expected under the administration of President Donald Trump, who has said that fuel economy standards were imposing greater costs on the average consumer.
Former President Barack Obama’s administration set a mandate in his first term that would require automakers to achieve a fleet average of 54.5 mpg by the year 2025. According to the EPA’s proposal, “Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks,” the agency would amend the rules to retain standards for model year 2020. The new rules would cap corporate average fuel economy standards at 43.7 mpg for passenger cars and 31.3 mpg for light trucks through model year 2026.
One of the reasons given for the change was to reduce costs for consumers, allowing them to upgrade to newer, safer vehicles. The EPA says that current fuel economy standards could add more than $2,000 to the cost of a new vehicle, leading drivers to hold onto their older, less safe vehicles rather than upgrade to newer machines.
At press time, only Fiat Chrysler Automobiles had responded to the proposed rules: "The proposal includes a range of options, and we will carefully evaluate how each aligns with FCA’s goals of continuous improvement in vehicle efficiency and, at the same time, building vehicles customers want, at prices they can afford."
In addition to new fuel economy standards, the EPA is expected to revoke California’s right to impose its own emissions standards under the California Air Resources Board (CARB). CARB was created in 1967 to fight increasing air pollution in the state due to population growth, and its rules have been adopted by 12 other states and Washington D.C., according to the State of Maryland. However, the Trump administration’s EPA proposal would require California to abide by federal rules, rather than set its own. The CARB website suggests the state should be allowed to set its own standards, owing to its “unique geography, weather, and expanding number of people and vehicles.”
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.