(Adds comments from Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, other
senators, White House not commenting)
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON, March 7 U.S. Senate Minority Leader
Chuck Schumer and 11 other Democrats said on Tuesday it was
"critical" that the Trump administration leave in place new
vehicle fuel efficiency rules, saying the higher standards were
Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection
Agency, is expected to announce as early as this week the
reopening of a review of the rules that were set by the Obama
administration for the 2022-2025 period.
Automakers say the changes, which would raise the fleet
average fuel efficiency to more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025
from 27.5 mpg in 2010, will impose significant costs and are out
of step with consumer preferences. They argue they need more
flexibility to meet the rules amid low gas prices.
Environmentalists, who favor the new standards, say they
would reduce fuel costs and greenhouse gases and have vowed to
sue if the Trump administration weakens them.
"These automobile emissions standards are economically
feasible and technologically achievable for the auto industry,"
the Democratic senators, including Edward Markey of
Massachusetts and former presidential candidate Bernard Sanders
of Vermont, wrote in a letter to Pruitt. "It is critical that
they remain in place."
EPA spokeswoman Cathy Milbourn declined to comment on the
letter "since the agency has not announced how it will proceed
on the vehicle emission standards." The White House also
declined to comment.
Trade groups representing automakers, including General
Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Toyota Motor Corp
, have asked the EPA to withdraw the rules, which stem
from a 2011 deal the industry reached with the U.S. government.
The chief executives of GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler
Automobiles NV, along with the top North American
executives at Toyota, Volkswagen, Honda, Hyundai Motor Co
and others separately have urged President Donald
Trump to revisit the decision.
The Obama administration in 2011 said the changes would save
motorists $1.7 trillion in fuel costs over the life of the
vehicles and cost the auto industry about $200 billion over 13
In July, the EPA estimated the fleet would average 50.8-52.6
mpg in 2025 because Americans were buying more SUVs and trucks.
It had until April 2018 to decide whether the standards were
feasible under a "midterm review," but moved up its decision to
a week before President Barack Obama left office.
The EPA is also considering taking steps to reverse
California's waiver under the Clean Air Act that allows it to
set its own vehicle greenhouse gas emissions standards.
California has repeatedly vowed to vigorously contest any
efforts to withdraw its authority, and in January the state
hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to represent it.
At the Geneva auto show, Fiat Chrysler Chief Executive
Sergio Marchionne told reporters he opposed the Obama
administration's decision to finalize the rules.
"We have simply asked that the case be reopened to
understand what the consequences would be of the norms
introduced five years ago," Marchionne said, adding that he
expects to "see a positive reply in the coming days" from the
(Reporting by David Shepardson; additional reporting by
Agnieszka Flak in Geneva; editing by Paul Simao and Jonathan