The Trump admin­is­tra­tion recent­ly indi­cat­ed its will­ing­ness to halt Oba­ma-era vehic­u­lar emis­sions stan­dards. In an announce­ment that fore­shad­owed exec­u­tive action, Pres­i­dent Trump promised to freeze and poten­tial­ly review vehi­cle emis­sion stan­dards.

Under a legal régime har­mo­nized by Oba­ma-era reg­u­la­tions, the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion, the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA) togeth­er with Cal­i­for­nia, empow­ered by a Clean Air Act waiv­er, can pre­scribe and review fuel econ­o­my stan­dards for cars and light trucks. These stan­dards are to oper­ate from 2012 to 2025 with the pos­si­bil­i­ty of midterm eval­u­a­tion in 2018. Pres­i­dent Obama’s EPA and the Cal­i­for­nia Air Resources Board had both con­firmed the appli­ca­tion of those stan­dards through to 2025. How­ev­er, Pres­i­dent Trump may revis­it this midterm eval­u­a­tion in order to make it eas­i­er for man­u­fac­tur­ers to meet emis­sion stan­dards. Addi­tion­al­ly, (although less like­ly) the Trump admin­is­tra­tion may chal­lenge the Cal­i­for­nia waiv­er that allows that state to pur­sue stan­dards stricter than the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.

Just how much could this change? The EPA’s midterm eval­u­a­tion of the vehic­u­lar stan­dards is already the sub­ject of lit­i­ga­tion, with Cal­i­for­nia and 9 states indi­cat­ing their will­ing­ness to defend the emis­sion stan­dards. Attempts by the EPA or Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion to enforce Pres­i­dent Trump’s announce­ment is thus like­ly to be met with resis­tance. Envi­ron­men­tal­ists will also sure­ly view any roll­back of the emis­sions stan­dards as under­min­ing the Unit­ed States’ com­mit­ment to reduce (GHG) emis­sions under the Paris Accord.

How­ev­er, the effect may be more neu­tral for busi­ness­es. For one, this fed­er­al dis­pute comes after states like Geor­gia, once home to a boom­ing elec­tric car mar­ket, repealed tax cred­its and estab­lished reg­is­tra­tion fees that under­cut the elec­tric vehi­cle mar­ket. Sim­i­lar­ly, Col­orado, Illi­nois, Penn­syl­va­nia and Ten­nessee have allowed clean vehi­cle incen­tives to expire. Addi­tion­al­ly, California’s author­i­ty to estab­lish more strin­gent stan­dards may, as long as it is not chal­lenged, effec­tive­ly make its reg­u­la­tions the bench­mark for auto man­u­fac­tur­ers. Cal­i­for­nia is a cru­cial auto mar­ket, rep­re­sent­ing 10% of all sales, and its zero emis­sion vehi­cle stan­dards have been adopt­ed by 9 oth­er states. Final­ly, respons­es by automak­ers to a loos­en­ing of stan­dards is like­ly to dif­fer accord­ing to their strate­gic objec­tives. While weak­er long-term stan­dards may affect the out­look for elec­tric vehi­cles, some ana­lysts doubt that it would sig­nif­i­cant­ly under­cut invest­ment in autonomous­ly dri­ven elec­tric cars.

Even­tu­al­ly, much will depend on the administration’s next steps and just how much of Pres­i­dent Obama’s cli­mate change lega­cy it seeks to chal­lenge.

Rolling-Back Vehic­u­lar Emis­sions Stan­dards Dif­fer­ent Strokes (PDF)

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Source: The Net­work

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