Trump Administration Issues Looser Emissions Standard

The Trump administration formally unveiled a new standard that loosens emissions rules for vehicles sold in the U.S. and moved to strip California’s ability to set its own tougher requirements, steps officials said will give drivers access to cheaper, safer cars.

Source: WSJ | Published on September 19, 2019

Vehicles with their brake lights lit up as they are stopped on an inboud interstate highway on an overcast summer morning in chicago.

Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department said Thursday they issued a final action on a rule that will unify the country’s fuel-economy and greenhouse-gas-emissions standards. The announcement, which had been previewed by President Trump and other officials earlier in the week, marks another step in easing requirements set under the Obama administration in 2012.

The actions ensure that “no state has the authority to opt out of the nation’s rules, and no state has the right to impose its policies on the rest of the country,” said Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.

Critics say the administration’s moves will hurt air quality and the fight against climate change.

Ahead of the formal announcement, Public Citizen, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group, said the move to take away California’s ability to set its own rules “will further impede efforts to combat global climate change even as the signs of impending climate disaster grow ever clearer.”

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said that the action will provide certainty for auto makers as they prepare to comply with stronger standards designed to cut air pollution.

“Most auto makers can’t comply with the trajectory of the current standards,” Mr. Wheeler said at a press conference Thursday morning.

In the press conference, Ms. Chao called the standards set by the Obama administration “unattainable” and said they made the price of new cars unaffordable for some families. “The rule will not force auto makers to spend billions of dollars developing cars that consumers do not want to buy or drive,” she said.

California has long had the authority to set its own rules on limiting air pollutants from cars, but the Trump administration believes such requirements should be set by the federal government. California has already taken legal action to block the White House’s efforts to take away its waiver to set its own standards, and top state officials threatened more lawsuits on Wednesday.

Federal officials said they are still working on additional rules that will give auto makers the full scope of requirements and expect to release those details later this year.

Rescinding the California waiver would fulfill a longstanding goal of the administration to curb California’s influence over the car industry with its ability to set more stringent emissions rules than federal mandates. In July, four car companies— Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., Volkswagen AG and BMW AG —signed an agreement with California to meet tougher emission requirements than those proposed by the Trump administration.

In previewing the planned action, Mr. Trump tweeted Wednesday: “Auto makers should seize this opportunity because without this alternative to California, you will be out of business.”