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Trump review of Obama-era mileage rules expanded

Keith Laing

Washington — President Donald Trump’s administration is expanding its review of stringent fuel economy rules enacted by former President Barack Obama that are estimated by some to add at least $2,000 to the sticker price of a vehicle.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation said Thursday that they are accepting comments on mileage rules that require automakers to produce car and truck fleets averaging more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025. The rules for mileage years 2022 and 2025 were by law originally set to be reviewed for their feasibility by April 2018, but the agencies said Thursday they are also accepting comments on the rules for the 2021 model year, by which automakers will be required to hit a combined average of 41 miles per gallon for their cars and trucks.

Under the Obama administration’s proposal, enacted in 2012, the rules for the model years between 2017 and 2021 were supposed to be locked in place. Automakers lobbied at the time for a mid-point review to ensure that the mileage rules were still feasible for the last four model years that are included in the mandate.

The EPA said Thursday that comments will accepted on the mileage rules for the model years beyond 2020 for 45 days.

“We want to increase public participation, listen to those impacted directly by our regulations and use the best available information and data to inform our regulatory actions,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said.

The increase, which some automakers have said is too ambitious, requires an average of over 35 miles per gallon for 2017 models. 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 the last year before automakers will have a chance to weigh in on the need for any course corrections.

Automakers will face fines of $5.50 for each one-tenth 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 sold under the new regulations.

Mitch Bainwol, president and CEO of the Washington,D.C.-based Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, praised the Trump administration for expanding the review of the mileage rules. “This review is important to consumers nationwide who want government to rely on the facts to drive improvements in fuel economy,” he said.

Environmentalists and consumer advocates accused the Trump administration of reneging on a deal between automakers and the Obama administration that was touted at the time as a sign of compromise between regulators and industry.

“This is yet another sign that the administration and their industry allies true goals are to weaken our highly successful clean car standards,” Roland Hwang, director of Natural Resource Defense Council’s Energy and Transportation program, said in a statement.

“Consumers want to save money on gas and they want government to help them by continuing to set strong standards for cars, trucks and SUVs, according to our latest surveys,” Shannon Baker-Branstetter, policy counsel for Consumers Union, added.

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Twitter: @Keith_Laing