Fuel efficiency standards for automobiles are set to be rolled back by the Environmental Protection Agency later this week, according to The New York Times.
EPA director Scott Pruitt is expected to unveil a new set of standards that will let automakers forgo costs associated with building more efficient technology, a move that could lead to cheaper cars, while derailing the country’s larger efforts to mitigate climate change, according to The Washington Post.
Once announced, California’s attorney general Xavier Becerra is expected to launch a legal challenge with the support of 12 other attorneys general across the country.
“We’re going to defend first and foremost existing federal greenhouse gas standards,” Mr. Becerra told the Times. “We’re defending them because they’re good for the entire nation. No one should think it’s easy to undo something that’s been not just good for the country, but good for the planet.”
The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards were updated in 2012 by the Obama administration to compel manufacturers to develop cars with average fuel efficiency of 54.5 miles per gallon of gasoline by 2025.
The rules were developed after years of rigorous analysis by career scientists at the EPA, according to the New Yorker, but the Trump administration has argued that they are unnecessarily burdensome and impede US companies.
“I’m sure you've all heard the big news that we’re going to work on the CAFE standards so you can make cars in America again,” US President Donald Trump said at a Detroit auto research facility last year. “We want to be the car capital of the world again. We will be, and it won’t be long.”
The previous standard was 30.1 miles per gallon for passenger vehicles.
The CAFE rules were meant to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, setting a standard that could be emulated around the world, and they were a core part of the Obama administration’s efforts to combat climate change.
If allowed to take effect, oil consumption would have fallen by 12 billion gallons and carbon dioxide emissions would have dropped by six billion tons, according to EPA projections.
Environmental advocates worry that rolling back the CAFE standards could allow some automakers to lobby for weaker regulations elsewhere in the world, according to the Times.
Major auto brands like Ford and Honda have come out against the expected rollback, The Post reports.
“We support increasing clean-car standards through 2025 and are not asking for a rollback,” Ford’s top executives wrote in a Medium post.
But scrapping the rules conforms with Pruitt’s broader effort to minimize the EPA’s regulatory authority.
Since taking office, 67 environmental rules have been overturned, slowed, or suspended by Pruitt.
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