Donald Trump halts talks with California over rules for fuel-efficient vehicles

February 21, 2019

The Trump administration said Thursday it has ended discussions with California officials over an EPA proposal to roll back the state’s stricter standards for fuel-efficient vehicles, saying the state is avoiding a “common-sense” solution.

In a joint statement from the White House, the Transportation Department and the EPA, the administration said it has discontinued talks with the California Air Resources Board.

“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,” the statement said. “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 announced plans last year to ease fuel economy and tailpipe emission standards designed to cut down on greenhouse gases. The Obama-era standards set a target for cars and trucks of 50 miles per gallon by 2025. The agency said it wanted to freeze the standards at 2020 levels.

Advocacy groups said the administration’s announcement is likely a sign that the EPA plans to revoke California’s authority to set its own, stricter air pollution standards for cars under the Clean Air Act in 1970.

“The fact that the Trump administration has stopped talking to California officials about the clean cars standards is an ominous sign,” Public Citizen said in a statement. “It signals President Donald Trump’s determination to undo the standards which have saved consumers more than $70 billion at the gas pump and cut dangerous climate pollution and revoke the California waiver, which allows that state, 13 others and the District of Columbia to protect their citizens from harmful tailpipe pollution.”

California has sued the administration over the proposed rollback.

Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, ranking Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said the breakdown in talks increases the likelihood of a lengthy court battle.

“Litigation is not the best option here,” Mr. Carper said in a statement. “It wastes time, money, creates uncertainty for American automakers and harms the environment. I encourage automakers to speak out quickly, loudly and clearly against this decision.”

The announcement comes two days after the administration said it plans to cancel $929 million awarded to California’s high-speed rail project, and wants the state to return $2.5 billion that it has already spent on it.

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