States going to court to challenge mileage rule

California emissions testing site in Oceanside California

It would also take bake a permission granted to California and 13 others states to set pollution standards that are stricter than federal government's.

Becerra and attorneys general from 16 other states sued in May to stop the EPA from scrapping standards that would have required vehicles by 2025 to achieve 36 miles per gallon (58 kilometres per gallon) in real-world driving, about 10 miles (16 kilometres) over the existing standards.

Maura Healey, the attorney general of MA, said, "Once again, the E.P.A. has handed decision-making to fossil fuel lobbyists and climate change deniers, while sticking the American people with the bill".

The Trump administration's proposal for freezing USA mileage standards estimates that its action could cost tens of thousands of US auto jobs.

The proposed change, halting further improvement requirements, stakes its case on consumer choice and on highway safety claims challenged by many transportation experts.

The administration said the freeze would boost US oil consumption by about 500,000 barrels of oil a day by the 2030s, and argued it would prevent up to 1,000 traffic fatalities per year by reducing the price of new vehicles and so prompting people to buy newer, safer vehicles more quickly. And that, it said, would get vehicles with the latest technology into the hands of consumers more quickly.

The group of attorneys general says in a statement that relaxing the nation's mileage standards will make Americans "breathe dirtier air and pay higher prices at the pumps".

While the administration supports freezing the mileage standards after 2020, it will seek public comment now on that proposal and a range of others, including leaving the tighter, Obama administration fuel standards in place.

Months after they pre-emptively sued to block anticipated efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to roll back mileage regulations, Democratic attorneys general vowed to continue their fight in the courts. "It's going to cost drivers here and across the country hundreds of millions of dollars more at the pump". California and the automakers agreed to the rules in 2012, setting a single national fuel economy standard.

President Donald Trump had directed the rethink of the mileage regulations, saying in March 2017, "If the standards threatened auto jobs, then common-sense changes" were needed. Those losses would hit the estimated 200,000 U.S.jobs that deal with making vehicles more fuel efficient, said Simon Mui of the Natural Resources Defence Council.

Thursday's proposal would freeze an effort by the Obama administration meant to promote auto fuel efficiency and curb tailpipe emissions of climate-changing pollutants.

"And that's why so many of our sister states have joined California in this fight".

Some middle ground on the issue might be possible, with acting EPA chief Andrew Wheeler saying Wednesday he would welcome a deal between the industry and states like California on vehicle fuel economy, once they consider the Trump administration's proposal. That would price many buyers out of the new-vehicle market, forcing them to drive older, less-safe vehicles that pollute more, the administration says.

According to Trump administration, another benefit from the policy would be billions of dollars saved by auto manufacturers since they won't have a need to invest that much into the electrification.

The Transportation Department says the proposal would shrink regulatory costs for automakers by $319 billion through 2029, reducing by more than $60 billion what General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV each would have been expected to spend to comply with the Obama-era rules.

Longstanding federal legislation has allowed California to set its own mileage standards given the choking smog that still sometimes blankets Los Angeles and other central and Southern California valley cities.

"It was assumed gasoline would be a lot more expensive today than it is and even though gasoline prices have gone up a little bit recently, they're still at historically low levels", EPA assistant administrator Bill Wehrum told reporters.

A drawn-out legal battle over the standards could hurt the auto industry as it tries to plan for coming model years. Automakers have said they want improved efficiency but also want standards that account for the massive shift from cars to trucks and SUVs.

In 2012, when the standards were first adopted, cars were about 50 per cent of new-vehicle sales.

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