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End to State Mileage Standards Decried 09/18 06:11

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Trump administration is poised to revoke California's 
authority to set auto mileage standards, asserting that only the federal 
government has the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy.

   Conservative and free-market groups have been asked to attend a formal 
announcement of the rollback set for Wednesday afternoon at Environmental 
Protection Agency headquarters in Washington.

   Gloria Bergquist, spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, 
said Tuesday that her group was among those invited to the event featuring EPA 
Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

   The move comes after the Justice Department recently opened an antitrust 
investigation into a deal between California and four automakers for tougher 
pollution and related mileage requirements than those sought by President 
Donald Trump. Trump also has sought to relax Obama-era federal mileage 
standards nationwide, weakening a key effort by his Democratic predecessor to 
slow climate change.

   Top California officials and environmental groups pledged legal action to 
stop the rollback.

   The White House declined to comment Tuesday, referring questions to EPA. 
EPA's press office did not respond to a phone message and email seeking comment.

   But Wheeler told the National Automobile Dealers Association on Tuesday that 
the Trump administration would move "in the very near future" to take steps 
toward establishing one nationwide set of fuel-economy standards.

   "We embrace federalism and the role of the states, but federalism does not 
mean that one state can dictate standards for the nation," Wheeler said, adding 
that higher fuel economy standards would hurt consumers by increasing the 
average sticker price of new cars and requiring automakers to produce more 
electric vehicles.

   Word of the pending announcement came as Trump traveled to California on 
Tuesday for an overnight trip that includes GOP fundraising events near San 
Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

   California's authority to set its own, tougher emissions standards goes back 
to a waiver issued by Congress during passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970. The 
state has long pushed automakers to adopt more fuel-efficient passenger 
vehicles that emit less pollution. A dozen states and the District of Columbia 
also follow California's fuel economy standards.

   California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Tuesday that the Trump 
administration's action will hurt both U.S. automakers and American families. 
He said California would fight the administration in federal court.

   "You have no basis and no authority to pull this waiver," Becerra, a 
Democrat, said in a statement, referring to Trump. "We're ready to fight for a 
future that you seem unable to comprehend."

   California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the White House "has abdicated its 
responsibility to the rest of the world on cutting emissions and fighting 
global warming."

   "California won't ever wait for permission from Washington to protect the 
health and safety of children and families," said Newsom, a Democrat.

   The deal struck in July between California and four of the world's largest 
automakers --- Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen --- bypassed the Trump 
administration's plan to freeze emissions and fuel economy standards adopted 
under Obama at 2021 levels.

   The four automakers agreed with California to reduce emissions by 3.7% per 
year starting with the 2022 model year, through 2026. That compares with 4.7% 
yearly reductions through 2025 under the Obama standards. Emissions standards 
are closely linked with fuel economy requirements because vehicles pollute less 
if they burn fewer gallons of fuel.

   The U.S. transportation sector is the nation's biggest single source of 
planet-warming greenhouse gasses.

   Wheeler said Tuesday: "California will be able to keep in place and enforce 
programs to address smog and other forms of air pollution caused by motor 
vehicles." But fuel economy has been one of the key regulatory tools the state 
has used to reduce harmful emissions.

   Environmentalists condemned the Trump administration's expected 
announcement, which comes as gasoline prices have crept higher following a 
weekend drone attack that hobbled Saudi Arabian oil output.

   "Everyone wins when we adopt strong clean car standards as our public 
policy," said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund. "Strong 
clean car standards give us healthier air to breathe, help protect us from the 
urgent threat of climate change and save Americans hundreds of dollars a year 
in gas expenses."


(KR)

 
 
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