The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a set of new fuel economy and emissions standards on August 2, estimated to result in 12,700 fewer traffic deaths, make passenger cars more affordable, and give automakers more freedom to create cars based on consumer preference rather than government mandate.
"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.
"Automakers support continued improvements in fuel economy and flexibilities that incentivize advanced technologies while balancing priorities like affordability, safety, jobs, and the environment".
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". The proposal also claims it will save up to 1,000 lives a year by encouraging people to buy safer, newer cars to replace older, less-safe cars. They've argued that the Obama-era standards Trump proposes to sweep aside are outdated, established when the USA was over-reliant on foreign oil, and that they don't reflect huge increases in US exports of crude oil and petroleum products since then. The standards called for automakers to reach a fleet average of about 54 miles per gallons by 2025; the new standard is about 37 miles per gallon after 2021.
The administration will now seek public comment on its proposal and a range of other options, including leaving the tighter, Obama fuel standards in place.
The states that have adopted California's emission rules together make up about one third of the USA auto market.
New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood and 19 other attorney generals issued a joint statement in which they said: "This decision upends decades of cooperative state and federal action to protect our residents".
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The argument may prove a tough sell in court, where attorneys for states and environmental groups will come armed with a wealth of data undermining it.
A lower emission standard would make it easier for them to make the vehicles more drivers want.
"They don't offer any meaningful example of what has changed so dramatically" to warrant the reversal, said Jeff Alson, who until this spring was a senior engineer in the EPA's transportation and air quality office. Despite the waiver, California still fails to meet federal clean air guidelines, the agencies noted.
The rollback would undermine efforts by California and several other states to meet commitments the US made in the Paris agreement on climate change. "This program has sparked innovations resulting in cars and trucks that are cleaner, safer, faster and offer more comforts and luxuries, all while saving consumers billions", said David Friedman, vice president, advocacy, for Consumer Reports and the former interim head of NHTSA under the Obama administration.
Now they're only about one-third, with less-efficient trucks and SUVS making up the rest.