EPA and California Near Deal on Fuel Efficiency Standards
Two weeks ago, the Obama administration raised fuel efficiency standards by an average of two miles per gallon — a modest change that disappointed some environmentalists, who noted that President George W. Bush had actually proposed slightly higher standards.
But now fuel efficiency appears to be due for another boost. InsideEPA reports that the administration is working out a compromise with the state of California that would federalize California’s more stringent guidelines. In return, California would adopt a national system, favored by automakers, for calculating fuel efficiency requirements.
Several sources say EPA is likely to follow historical precedent and federalize the state rules, as part of the agency’s reconsideration of the Bush administration’s denial of the state’s waiver request, which blocked the state from implementing its GHG standards that more than a dozen other states have already adopted.
But the administration appears to be acting in line with automakers’ calls for a single national standard by coordinating overlapping EPA and Department of Transportation (DOT) regulatory processes, both of which are responses to legal pressure for stringent vehicle standards that reduce GHG emissions. The moves also appear set to be issued imminently, as EPA faces deadlines to propose new rules to meet its legal mandates.
A major issue, however, is whether California will agree to modify its rules to create a pathway for automakers to meet its standard through a federally applied attribute-based system for calculating the fuel efficiency requirements or by an EPA-backed emissions standard. California’s GHG rules currently use the class-based, fleet-wide average calculation, but federal rules would likely use the attribute-based calculation to avoid the patchwork of standards that industry opposes.
Sources closely following the issue now say the state may be willing to accept such a compromise, which automakers are calling for and that would allow EPA to nationalize the state rules.