Environmental regulators announced on Monday they will ease emissions standards for cars and trucks, saying that a timeline put in place by President Barack Obama was not appropriate and set standards "too high."
The Environmental Protection Agency said it completed a review that will affect vehicles for model years 2022-2025, but it did not provide details on new standards, which it said would be forthcoming. Current regulations from the EPA require the fleet of new vehicles to get 36 miles per gallon in real-world driving by 2025. That's about 10 mpg over the existing standard.
The agency said in its decision that the regulations set under the Obama administration "present challenges for auto manufacturers due to feasibility and practicability, raises potential concerns related to automobile safety, and results in significant additional costs on consumers, especially low-income consumers."
The EPA, in partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will work to come up with new standards.The Obama administration rules aimed to help combat climate change by cutting oil consumption and carbon emissions.
Automakers applauded Monday's decision, arguing the current requirements would have cost the industry billions of dollars and raised vehicle prices due to the cost of developing the necessary technology.
"This was the right decision, and we support the Administration for pursuing a data-driven effort and a single national program as it works to finalize future standards," Gloria Bergquist, spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said in a statement. "We appreciate that the Administration is working to find a way to both increase fuel economy standards and keep new vehicles affordable to more Americans."
Environmentalists, meanwhile, warned the proposed rollbacks will make U.S. cars more expensive to fill up.
"No one in America is eager to buy a car that gets worse gas mileage and spews more pollution from its tailpipe," said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund. "Designing and building cleaner, more cost-efficient cars is what helped automakers bounce back from the depths of the recession and will be key to America's global competitiveness in the years ahead."
Any change is likely to set up a legal showdown with California, which has a waiver that allows it to set its own pollution and gas mileage standards and doesn't want them to change. About a dozen other states, including New York, follow California's rules, and together they account for more than one-third of the vehicles sold in the United States. Currently the federal and California standards are the same.
Some conservative groups are pressing EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to get rid of the waiver. Pruitt said in a statement Monday the agency will work with all states, including California, to finalize new standards.