The Trump administration has turned down an auto industry request to find a compromise with the State of California on emission rules for new vehicles.
The Los Angeles Times reported the administration is moving forward with plans to weaken vehicle pollution rules, rejecting a last-minute appeal from the world’s largest car manufacturers to restart negotiations with California.
The companies warned Trump the proposed plan to rollback anti-pollution regulations, fuel-economy standards could produce untenable instability for the industry that could hurt car companies’ bottom lines.
The auto industry has been the subject of special interest for Trump as he has demanded carmakers build more vehicles in the continental U.S. and threatened foreign imports with tariffs.
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Trump’s latest threat has been resolved after Mexico agreed to try to stem the flow of emigrants from Central America to the U.S.-Mexican border. The agreement, skeptics suggest, is rather shaky and could trigger more tariff threats in the not too distant future.
Meanwhile, changes to the North America Free Trade Agreement on which the auto industry has relied on for a quarter of a century remain in political limbo as Democrats demand the administration do more to force companies operating in Mexico to raise the wages of their Mexican workers.
The administration maintains California’s top air quality regulator failed to propose a “productive alternative” to the administration’s plan to ease requirements for tailpipe emissions and fuel economy standards, the Times reported.
“We are moving forward to finalize a rule with the goal of promoting safer, cleaner, and more affordable vehicles,” a White House spokesman said.
California has indicated that it is prepared to go to court to protect its right to set its own standards. California’s unique role in setting federal air quality standards originated in the 1950 and has withstood court challenges in the past.
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The Trump rejection of the auto manufacturers plea, while not unexpected, creates an unprecedented degree of uncertainty for automakers, now facing the prospect of having to live with what amounts to two different emission standards for an indefinite period.
The Trump administration’s proposal would scrap one of the most significant environmental regulations put in place under President Obama — rules that sought to cut down on vehicle emissions, improve fuel efficiency and forestall the worst effects of climate change.
The regulations require car manufacturers to build increasingly efficient vehicles so that by 2025 the nation’s cars and trucks would average 50 miles per gallon.
Automakers complained in 2017 that the Obama standards were too strict, the Trump administration decided to rewrite the regulations. But the administration’s proposed rollback went further than car makers thought necessary.
Concerned about their image of their brands in the critical California market, most carmakers said they expected to exceed the targets set out in the Trump administration proposal.
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The car manufacturers also wrote to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, asking the state to reach a compromise with the Trump administration that would lower the annual vehicle fuel economy targets without completely undoing the progress that has been made thus far.