California and Carmakers `in Agreement' on Emissions Standards

(Bloomberg) -- California and the auto industry mostly agree that the state should maintain a role in setting vehicle emissions standards despite Trump administration efforts to curb its authority, according to the head of the California Air Resources Board.

“We are now, I think it is fair to say, in a confusing situation,” Mary Nichols said Tuesday at the Edison Electric Institute convention in San Diego. “Maybe in the first time in recorded history, California and the auto industry are mostly in agreement that standards on the books actually should be on the books, and California should have a place in implementing those standards.”

Her comments come as the White House’s Office of Management and Budget is reviewing a proposal that would ease automobile efficiency standards, and people familiar with the matter have said it calls for revoking California’s unique authority to set its own limits.

California has long been at the forefront of clean air policies in the U.S. and has coordinated its automobile efficiency regulations with federal regulators since 2009.

Automakers fear that a move to gut the standards and attack California’s regulatory powers may trigger years of legal battles and uncertainty. They’ve urged California and Trump administration officials to reach a deal that would adjust the standards in light of high light-truck sales and low fuel prices while still requiring annual mileage improvements.

State officials have not yet seen the proposal, Nichols said, and probably won’t until OMB completes a review in the next several weeks. In the meantime, California will oppose efforts to reduce its authority.

“We do have, and we will continue to fight for, the right to set standards which are more stringent than the national standards because we think we have a bigger need and a bigger justification for that,” Nichols said.

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