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Trump administration ends talks with California over light-duty GHG/CAFE standards

26 February 2019

The Trump administration announced on February 21, 2019 that it would end discussions with California authorities over future light-duty vehicle GHG emission and fuel economy standards. In a joint statement, the White House, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the talks with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) had not been successful and the Trump administration will move forward with its plan to finalize a new federal GHG rule that would relax the existing standards.

The White House statement said:

“Today, officials from the White House, Department of Transportation, and Environmental Protection Agency announced that the Trump Administration has decided to discontinue discussions with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) regarding the proposed Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule. Despite the Administration’s best efforts to reach a common-sense solution, it is time to acknowledge that CARB has failed to put forward a productive alternative since the SAFE Vehicles Rule was proposed. Accordingly, the Administration is moving forward to finalize a rule later this year with the goal of promoting safer, cleaner, and more affordable vehicles.”

The EPA and DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had been meeting with CARB to negotiate a compromise rule to be finalized by April, but could not reach an agreement. Acting EPA chief Andrew Wheeler said earlier this month that the parties were “far apart” in negotiations. “We certainly hope to have a 50-state solution but at the end of the day we have to move forward with regulation,” he said. “California is an important player—an important part of this—but this is not a two-sided negotiation for a national standard.”

While the auto industry has pushed for the Trump administration to weaken the standards, the sector was not happy with the the prospect of having two parallel sets of fuel economy standards. John Bozzella, President of Global Automakers, said in a statement:

"We continue to believe there is a middle ground solution that supports the goals of the Administration, state of California, as well as automakers. (...) Global Automakers is disappointed and concerned that the failure of federal and state regulators to reach an agreement on a national program will not benefit either our economic nor environmental objectives.”

The White House announcement was sharply criticized by California officials, including California Governor Gavin Newsom, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and CARB Chairwoman Mary Nicholas. The state will likely enforce their own GHG emission standards, setting the stage for what might be a lengthy legal battle over California’s ability to regulate GHG emissions.

Source: White House | Global Automakers