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California Cuts Its Own Deal With Automakers, Ignoring EPA

Trump administration wants to freeze standards
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 25, 2019 3:33 PM CDT
Vehicles make their way west on Interstate 80 across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in 2015.   (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

(Newser) – Four major automakers have reached a deal with California to increase gas mileage and greenhouse gas emissions standards, bypassing the Trump administration's push to freeze requirements at 2021 levels. Ford, BMW, Honda, and Volkswagen signed the deal with the California Air Resources Board, the state's air pollution regulator, which had been at odds with the Trump administration for months, the AP reports. California had said it would set more stringent pollution and mileage standards than the federal government proposed. The Trump administration reacted angrily to the end run, with Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Michael Abboud calling it a "PR stunt" and charging that California regulators "continually refused to produce reasonable and responsible proposals." Gov. Gavin Newsom wants it to be a movement: "I now call on the rest of the auto industry to join us," he said, per the Los Angeles Times.

The administration has sought to freeze Obama administration standards, keeping fleetwide new-vehicle mileage at 2021 levels of about 30 mpg. The administration says the extra expense to comply with the requirements will raise the price of new cars, making them unaffordable and depriving buyers of new safety technology. Many experts, including former EPA engineers, challenge that safety assertion. The administration also has threatened to challenge California's ability to set its own standards. California regulators said their deal delays by one year the new-vehicle fuel efficiency requirements approved under the Obama administration for model years 2022 through 2025. So the fleet of new vehicles would have to average around 36 miles per gallon in real-world driving by 2026. The four automakers see the agreement as insurance to provide certainty to the industry and the state no matter who wins the 2020 presidential elections, said one person familiar with the talks.

(Read more gas mileage stories.)

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