The Trump administration today formally proposed weakening Obama-era clean car rules and pre-empting states from setting tougher standards.
The proposal from EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration outlines a series of options for the car rules. The preferred option is freezing fuel economy targets at 2020 levels through 2026, rather than maintaining the year-over-year increases that automakers agreed to under President Obama.
Just as significant, the administration is taking public comment on revoking California's Clean Air Act waiver for greenhouse gases.
The waiver allows the state to set tougher tailpipe rules than the federal ones. Twelve other states have adopted those tougher rules, representing about 40 percent of the country's auto market. Colorado is set to become the 13th state soon.
The proposal, called the "Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks," marks Andrew Wheeler's first high-profile rollback as acting EPA chief.
"We are delivering on President Trump's promise to the American public that his administration would address and fix the current fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards," Wheeler said in a statement today.
"Our proposal aims to strike the right regulatory balance based on the most recent information and create a 50-state solution that will enable more Americans to afford newer, safer vehicles that pollute less," he said. "More realistic standards can save lives while continuing to improve the environment."
Said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao: "There are compelling reasons for a new rulemaking on fuel economy standards for 2021-2026. More realistic standards will promote a healthy economy by bringing newer, safer, cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles to U.S. roads and we look forward to receiving input from the public."
The proposal argues that freezing the Obama-era standards at 2020 levels through 2026 will save consumers money and increase safety on the nation's roads.
"Current estimates indicate that the proposed SAFE Vehicles Rule would save over 500 billion dollars in societal costs and reduce highway fatalities by 12,700 lives (over the lifetimes of vehicles through [model year] 2029)," the agencies state.
The proposal will be published in the Federal Register soon, kicking off a 60-day notice and comment period. Both agencies are sure to be flooded with thousands of comments from automakers, environmentalists and other interested parties.