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EPA rejects car lobby petition to postpone mpg decision

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has rejected a petition from a pair of auto lobbying groups that called for the agency to drop efforts to finalize stringent new gas mileage rules before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Association of Global Automakers, which lobby for automakers in Washington, said Thursday they have been notified by the EPA that it is rejecting their petition that called for the agency to withdraw its proposed determination on greenhouse gas emission rules. Those rules would require automakers to produce car and truck fleets averaging more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025.

Under the EPA’s proposal, the gas mileage rules for the 2022-25 model years would be finalized after a comment period that is scheduled to end on Dec. 30. Those rules originally were subject to review in 2018.

John Bozzella, president and CEO of the Association of Global Automakers, said in a statement, “The EPA decision to deny stakeholders an opportunity to provide thorough and thoughtful comments on a regulatory program that could affect billions in investment is sadly predictable.

“EPA’s hurried determination, and lack of transparency, only increases suspicions surrounding the agency’s decision, undermining confidence in its objectivity and impartiality,” he said.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers added: “Our fundamental priority remains striking the right balance to continue fuel economy gains and carbon reduction without compromising consumer affordability and vital jobs producing vehicles. This crucial balance requires a midterm review that proceeds on the original EPA timetable, culminating not now but by April 2018.”

The alliance added pointedly: “The Trump administration will determine whether to accept this accelerated outcome or return to regular order.”

The EPA has framed the decision to finalize the fuel-efficiency rules ahead of schedule as an effort to provide certainty about regulatory requirements to automakers instead of a move to pre-empt Trump.

The agency said Thursday that it rejected the petition from the auto lobbying groups because it believes the 30-day comment period that has been established for its proposal to finalize the rules is sufficient.

The emission standards at issue began to take effect with the 2017 model year. They call for ramping up from the current fleet-wide average of about 34 miles per gallon for cars and trucks that were required in 2016 to an eventual goal of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

The increase, which some automakers have said might be too ambitious, starts with a rise to an average of over 35 miles per gallon for the 2017 models that already are being rolled out. The mileage rules call for automakers to achieve a fleetwide average mileage rate of more than 36 miles per gallon for cars and trucks in 2018.

The standard then increases to more than 37 miles per gallon in 2019 and nearly 39 miles per gallon in 2020, which is before automakers will have a chance to weigh in on the need for any course corrections. By 2021, automakers will be required to hit a combined average of 41 miles per gallon for their cars and trucks.

If the rules for model years after 2021 are left in place, the emission standard will increase to about 43 miles per gallon combined for cars and trucks in 2022, before jumping to about 45 miles per gallon in 2023. The final years of the mandate will see a required average of about 47 miles per gallon in 2024, and finally more than 55 miles per gallon for cars and about 40 miles per gallon for trucks in 2025.

Auto companies that do not meet the higher emission standards will be fined $5.50 for each 10th of a mile-per-gallon their average fuel economy falls short of the standard for a model year, multiplied by the total volume of vehicles that are in the fleet that fails to meet the new requirements.

Automakers have been pushing Trump to roll back or modify mandates after he takes office in January.

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Twitter: @Keith_Laing