(Adds analysis of the Trump administration's possible responses
in paragraph 13)
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON Nov 30 The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency on Wednesday said it will push to lock in fuel
efficiency standards central to outgoing President Barack
Obama's climate policy before the Trump administration takes
over in January.
Automakers had appealed to President-elect Donald Trump, who
has been critical of Obama's climate policies, to review the
rules requiring them to nearly double fleet-wide fuel efficiency
by 2025, saying they impose significant costs and are out of
step with consumer preferences.
The EPA under law had to decide by April 2018 whether to
modify the 2022-2025 model year vehicle emission rules requiring
average fleet-wide efficiency of more than 50 miles per gallon.
Instead, the agency said it will end the public comment period
by Dec. 30, and could move to lock in the rules after then and
before the Obama administration leaves office on Jan. 20.
The EPA in a statement said it concluded after a lengthy
review that automakers can meet the 2025 standards.
Janet McCabe, EPA acting assistant administrator, told
reporters the technical record could "arguably support
strengthening the 2022 through 2025 standards," but the EPA
believes it "is not the time to introduce uncertainty by
changing the standard."
She denied the impending administration change prompted the
decision, but the EPA website previously showed a timeline that
suggested a decision on mid-term review was not expected until
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group
representing General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co,
Toyota Motor Corp, Volkswagen AG and
others, blasted the decision, saying "this extraordinary and
premature rush to judgment circumvents the serious analysis
necessary to make sure the (vehicle) standards appropriately
balance fuel efficiency, carbon reduction, affordability and
The group said it looked forward to working with the Trump
administration on revisions and that "the evidence is abundantly
clear that with low gas prices, consumers are not choosing the
cars necessary to comply with increasingly unrealistic
It had previously asked Trump to review the automotive
greenhouse gas rules, and other Obama administration actions
that enable California and certain other states to mandate sales
of electric vehicles.
Environmental groups applauded the administration move and
said they expect the EPA to finalize the rules by Jan. 20.
"What's not to like about a plan, agreed to by the
automakers, that cuts oil use, saves money at the pump and
reduces pollution?" said Daniel Becker, director of the Safe
Climate Campaign, a Washington-based group that supports strong
The Republican U.S. Congress or the Trump administration
could seek to reverse or modify the rules. However, if the
current EPA rules are locked in, it could make doing so more
difficult and time consuming.
Auto lobbyists said the next administration will have a
variety of ways of reversing the EPA action, including reopening
the technical assessment report. They also said the Obama
administration's move could backfire by bringing more attention
to the issue early in the Trump administration.
Trump's transition team did not immediately respond to a
request for comment.
In 2011, Obama announced agreement with major automakers to
raise fuel efficiency standards to 54.5 mpg, which the
administration said would save motorists $1.7 trillion in fuel
costs over the life of the vehicles but cost the auto industry
about $200 billion over 13 years. In July, EPA said because
Americans are buying fewer cars and more SUVs and trucks that
they now estimate the fleet will average 50.8 mpg to 52.6 mpg in
The agreement included a mid-term review to decide whether
the 2022-2025 model year requirements were feasible.
The California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols said
the EPA decision "provides solid support for continuation of the
single national program to produce a new generation of clean
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Franklin Paul and