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article imageAutomakers defy Trump and strike emissions deal with California

By Karen Graham     Jul 25, 2019 in Environment
Ford, Volkswagen, BMW, and Honda have reached a deal with California to increase gas mileage standards and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, setting a national standard, a longtime auto industry goal.
The agreement between the four automakers and the California Air Resources Board over fuel efficiency rules was reached on Thursday, according to the Washington Post, despite the Trump administration's effort to strip the state of the right to fight climate change by setting its own standards.
The chair of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), Mary Nichols, told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday that the four automakers sought regulatory certainty and had agreed not to legally challenge the state’s vehicle regulatory authority, according to the Huffington Post.
“They didn’t want to face the expense, distraction and the bad publicity that comes from being part of a big rollback on clean cars,” she said.
“Ensuring that America’s vehicles are efficient, safe and affordable is a priority for us all,” the automakers said in a joint statement that described the accord with California as amove to maintain a nationwide set of fuel efficiency requirements.
EPA rules change has been in the works since 2017
On April 13, 2018, the EPA formally published its decision in the Federal Register to overturn the Obama administration's vehicle fuel efficiency standards. Scott Pruitt said when signing the decision that "the EPA regulations were "locked-in" just days before Donald Trump took office and the "fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for the 2022-25 model years were not appropriate."
So the Trump administration's threat to do away with the Obama-era fuel efficiency rules created a great deal of uncertainty in what is a $2.0 trillion global automotive industry. And American automakers worried that court battles between states and the federal government could drag on for years.
However, don't think for a minute that Trump is going to back down from this fight, especially with his unbridled passion for destroying every policy with President Obama's signature. Yes, the fight is expected to continue in the courts despite the deal as the administration works to rewrite the rules, reports the Detroit Free Press. A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The California deal
The California fuel efficiency deal would increase the average fuel economy of the automakers' new vehicle fleets to almost 50 mpg by model year 2026.
In a conference call Thursday with California Gov. Gavin Newsom and CARB Chair Mary Nichols, officials noted that the Trump Administration's plan would bring that increase to only an average of 37 mpg by that same time. Interestingly, the deal would only apply if the Trump administration follows through on its rewrite of the fuel efficiency rules, which Newsom indicated has no justification since automakers themselves are willing to abide by more stringent rules.
More to the point, the proposal would allow automakers to adopt the California compromise and operate under one set of national rules. “A 50-state solution has always been our preferred path forward and we understand that any deal involves compromise, “the automakers’ joint statement said, reports the Financial Post.
At least a dozen states have adopted California’s vehicle emissions rules, accounting for over a third of all U.S. sales, while California, the most populous state, accounts for about 12 percent of U.S. vehicle sales. California invites other automakers to adopt the deal if they so choose.
More about California, Automakers, fuel efficiency rules, Trump administration, rollback of EPA rules
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