EPA's New Chief Met California Regulator on Car Mileage Plan

(Bloomberg) -- California’s top air-quality official met with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new acting chief on Tuesday, the first meeting between two regulators who disagree over the Trump administration’s plan to weaken automobile efficiency regulations.

Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board, said that acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler had reached out to state officials shortly after his appointment. Wheeler was elevated to the EPA’s top post earlier this month following the scandal-fueled ouster of former agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.

"It was a cordial meeting. Nothing of substance was discussed," Stanley Young, a California Air Resources Board spokesman, said in an email after the two officials met in Washington.

The White House is reviewing proposals by the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to roll back stringent fuel economy and emissions standards for automobiles that were enacted during the Obama administration. The proposals are also said to contain attacks on California’s authority to set vehicle efficiency rules that are tougher than the federal government’s, people familiar with the matter have said.

“I am not at the moment expecting any changes in direction or changes in policy,” from Wheeler’s appointment, Nichols said Tuesday at an event organized by Politico before her meeting with Wheeler. “But I hear from others who know him he is a practical person who likes to move forward and is willing to make compromises, so I am hopeful that we’ll find some things to work on together.”

In May, Trump directed his agencies to reach out to California officials including Nichols in a bid to come to an agreement on changes to the rules, which the state has vowed to defend in court if necessary. Those talks haven’t happened, Nichols said earlier this month.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.