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U.S. Regulators and CARB Hold Talks on Emissions Rules

January 9, 2018 0 Comments

Over the past few weeks, U.S. government officials have held talks with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to discuss maintaining the set of national vehicle emissions requirements for automakers.

A CARB spokesman confirmed on Monday that one such meeting on December 15 included the head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation, William Wehrum, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) deputy chief, Heidi King, and Mike Catanzaro, a senior White House aide on environment and energy issues.

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Automakers hope that the White House and California can reach an agreement on the matter. If they wind up at odds, it could mean a lengthy legal battle and lengthy uncertainty for the automotive industry regarding emissions rules. Automakers want changes to the rules that address lowered gas prices and the consumer demand shift to larger, less fuel-efficient vehicles like SUVs and crossovers.

“We’ve had productive conversations under way with CARB and I would hope those conversations continue to be productive,” said Wehrum in an interview at EPA headquarters on Friday. “I think a shared goal is to maintain one national program.”

In 2011, the Obama administration and California air emissions regulators reached an agreement with major automakers to “nearly double average fleetwide fuel efficiency to more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025”. The agreement included a midterm review in order to determine if the final requirements were feasible. The Obama administration announced it had conducted the midterm review in January 2017, with no changes made.

California, and a dozen other states, could seek to enforce their own current, stricter emissions rules, even if the current administration decides to “soften” the requirements for 2022 to 2025.

In March 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he was going to revisit the requirements set for 2025.

“The assault on the American auto industry is over,” he said. “We are going to ensure that any regulations we have protect and defend your jobs, your factories.”

Wehrum said that if there is a “good solid technical basis” for revising the requirements, he hopes California will agree. He also said that the talks thus far have been “very collegial and collaborative”, and that the talk on December 15 lasted several hours. According to Wehrum, the EPA has not made any decisions yet on whether the requirements should be lowered.

In June 2017, New York’s state attorney, joined by 12 other top state law officials, said it would mount a court challenge “to any effort to roll back vehicle fuel rules.”

Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (represents General Motors Co., Toyota Motor Corp., Volkswagen AG, and others), said the companies “fully support conversations between all the relevant parties.”

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