Major automobile manufacturers on Thursday urged US President Donald Trump’s administration and California to restart negotiations over vehicle mileage standards to prevent a lengthy legal battle, warning that moving ahead with two sets of standards would create instability in the auto market.
“What works best for consumers, communities and the millions of US employees that work in the auto industry is one national standard that is practical, achievable and consistent across the 50 states,” the 17 companies, including Honda, Ford and Mercedes-Benz, wrote in a letter addressed to Trump.
At issue is a Trump administration rollback of tougher mileage standards from former US president Barack Obama’s administration that would require cars to get 58km of real-world driving per 3.8 liters of gas by 2025.
The goal was for Americans to fill up their gas tanks less frequently, sending fewer climate-changing emissions and pollutants into the air.
Instead, the administration is halting the tougher standards at a 2020 requirement that cars achieve 48km per gallon of real-word driving.
It also wants to take away California’s long-held ability to set its own, tougher standards, first granted in 1970 under the Clean Air Act as the state dealt with oppressive smog.
Under the Obama rules, California and the federal government were on the same page.
California has already sued to block the changes, and both sides have accused the other of failing to negotiate a middle ground. The Trump administration formally cut off talks with the state in February.
California, the nation’s most populous state, has considerable influence over the auto market. Roughly a dozen states have used its emissions standards in the past, accounting for about one-third of the market.
The automakers said that the administration should consider adopting a standard that is halfway between its latest proposal and what California wants.
They also called for a standard that “achieves year-over-year improvements” in fuel economy and facilitates the use of “alternative powertrains,” such as electric vehicles.
“We strongly believe the best path to preserve good auto jobs and keep new vehicles affordable for more Americans is a final rule supported by all parties — including California,” they wrote.
Meanwhile, in the letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom the companies said such collaboration would lead to greater greenhouse gas emissions reductions than having two standards.
“We know that reaching an agreement has been challenging, but the stakes are too high and the benefits too important to accept the status quo,” they wrote to Newsom.
The Trump administration is expected to release its final version of the mileage rollbacks soon.
The letter shows automakers want weaker standards and more loopholes, said Dan Becker, director of Center for Auto Security’s Safe Climate Campaign.
“Had they sent this months ago, maybe it wouldn’t be too late, but now they’re closing the garage door after the gas guzzler has fled,” Becker said in an e-mail.
The Trump administration and California are frequent sparring partners, with the state filing more than 50 lawsuits against the federal government during Trump’s tenure.
California has “failed to put forward a productive alternative, and we are moving forward to finalize a rule with the goal of promoting safer, cleaner and more affordable vehicles,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said.
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