Roll-back of Obama-era fuel emissions standards
In a statement made by Scott Pruitt, EPA Administrator, this week, the EPA will be rolling back Obama-era fuel efficiency and emissions standards for automobiles. Said to be another step in President Trump's regulatory agenda, Pruitt called the standards “inappropriate” and said they “should be revised.” The proposed change in policy will relax the standards for vehicles manufactured between 2022 and 2025, but no revised standards have yet to be provided.
The current regulations which went into effect just before President Trump took office required automakers to increase the fuel economy on vehicles being manufactured by almost 40 percent. The required gas mileage is 36 miles per gallon in real world driving by 2025 for the fleet of new vehicles. This standard is touted as being unattainable and making it very difficult for automakers to meet. In turn, this can and will raise the prices of automobiles which is not desirable for the consumer. In partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the EPA hopes to develop more practical standards which will apply to vehicles manufactured in the next few years, beginning with the release date of 2022.
While this decision is unanimously supported by automakers for obvious reasons, environmentalists warn that the rollbacks will still affect the American consumer negatively by making U.S. cars even more expensive to fill up. Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund believes strongly that the push to more fuel efficient and lower emission producing vehicles will help everyone in the long run. “No one in America is eager to buy a car that gets worse gas mileage and spews more pollution from its tailpipe,” Krupp went on record to say. “Designing and building cleaner, more cost-efficient cars is what helped automakers bounce back from the depth of the recession and will be the key to America's global competitiveness in the years ahead.”
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These changes herald the beginning of a lengthy legal showdown in California, a state allowed to create its own gas mileage and pollution regulations. The nearly half-century-old federal waiver that allows California to sets its own standards also allows other states to opt in to the stricter regulations if they choose. At this point, 12 other states have decided to enact these tougher tailpipe emissions standards, so that means that up to 40 percent of cars on the roads nationwide already conform to the stricter regulations. California and the states following suit are adamant that these standards not be lowered as is currently being proposed by the EPA. Pruitt did indeed mention the EPA would be addressing the waiver, and it is very likely that California will eventually be forced to conform to the new less strict regulations. This waiver which was written into the original Clean Air Act back in 1970 allows California to set their own emissions standards as long as they were at least as tough as federal standards. This waiver has been renewed dozens of times over the years following, by both Democratic and Republican administration, so if the Trump administration decides to block the waiver, they will be facing the same challenges faced by the Bush administration who attempted the same course of action back in 2007 and failed.
Not only did the California Attorney General Xavier Becerra decry the EPA's announcement, but a joint statement released by the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington (collaborated by mayors in all the major cities) did as well. “This move sets us back from years of advancements by the automotive industry put in motion by states that took the lead in setting emissions standards.” Of course, Pruitt's official statement is just the beginning. It will take years to rewrite and enact new standards for fuel efficiency and emissions. Only time will tell whether this change in regulations is a step forward or a step back for the American people.