U.S. plan would boost vehicle emission standards by 1.5% annually, below Obama rules: senator

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House is reviewing a draft final proposal that would boost the stringency of U.S. vehicle emission standards by 1.5% annually from the 2021 through 2026 model years, a U.S. senator said Thursday, considerably lower than planned Obama-era standards.

FILE PHOTO: A California car smog check center is seen in Los Angeles, California, U.S. August 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Previously, in August 2018, the Trump administration proposed freezing fuel economy standards at 2020 levels through 2026, in its plan to reverse Obama-era standards that called for about a 5% annual increase during the period. The requirements are aimed at reducing greenhouse gases and improving the fuel efficiency of U.S. vehicles.

Senator Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said the proposal, which he obtained through a non-governmental source, would result in a 40.5 mpg for the combined fleet by 2030 — significantly less than the Obama rules.

“While this is a less dramatic rollback than the 0% annual stringency increase that was included in the proposed rule, it still falls well short of the historic average 2.4% per year actual tailpipe-efficiency standard increases that the fleet has achieved without the use of any credits or other compliance flexibilities,” Carper said in a letter to the White House made public Thursday.

He added the proposed rule would hurt the environment as well as public health.

“The rules will cause significant damage to the environment without providing any of the purported safety and economic benefits the Trump Administration has cited as the reason for the rule,” Carper wrote.

The Obama standards, adopted in 2012, sought to raise fuel efficiency standards to an estimated 46.7 mpg by 2026, which officials had said would save motorists $1.7 trillion in fuel costs and eliminate 2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide over the life of the vehicles but cost the auto industry about $200 billion over 13 years.

Reuters first reported in October that automakers were anticipating the administration would finalize annual increases of around 1.5% per year during the period. A government official confirmed to Reuters the figure is in the draft final proposal.

The draft final proposal also does not extend nearly all compliance flexibilities sought by automakers to build electric vehicles, Carper said.

Carper said that while the draft final rules say they would reduce the cost of a new vehicle by around $1,000, it also said it would add over $1,400 in additional fuel costs to operate less-efficient vehicles. Carper argued the rule would result in “no appreciable safety benefit.”

The draft final rule projects that the standards will lead to the use of between 78 billion and 84 billion more gallons of gasoline and the emission of 867 million to 923 million additional metric tons of CO2, he said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Environmental Protection Agency, which are jointly writing the new rules, did not immediately comment.

The agency had said last week the rule “will benefit all Americans by improving the U.S. fleet’s fuel economy, reducing air pollution, and helping make new vehicles more affordable for all Americans” and called it “a win for all Americans.”

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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