EPA Chief Says He Wants Compromise With California on Car Rules

(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration wants an agreement with California on automobile efficiency regulations to avoid a messy legal battle with the state, the Environmental Protection Agency’s top official told lawmakers Wednesday.

Andrew Wheeler, the EPA’s acting administrator, told a Senate panel on Wednesday that he would “certainly welcome” a compromise deal with California and would be willing to forgo challenging that state’s authority to set its own automobile efficiency requirements as part of such a pact.

“It’s my goal, it’s the administration’s goal to come up with a 50-state solution,” Wheeler told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “We want to have a 50-state solution that does not necessitate preempting California.”

“However it’s important -- there are a number of goals in the proposal and there are important goals on highway safety so we have to make sure those are met,” he said.

The EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are readying a proposed overhaul of tough efficiency rules set during the Obama administration -- freezing mileage targets from 2020 through 2026 instead of raising them each year.

As Bloomberg reported on July 23, the plan will also propose revoking California’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from cars and light trucks and its mandate for electric vehicle sales in the state, which would lead to a contentious legal battle between the most-populous U.S. state and federal regulators.

The proposal is set to be unveiled within days. It will then be subject to a public comment period before becoming final.

Federal regulators say easing requirements for cars will keep their costs down and encourage people to trade in old vehicles for new, safer ones -- reducing highway deaths. Wheeler said that goal must be preserved in any final rule to change the auto standards.

"The proposal will save 1,000 lives per year, which I think is very important," Wheeler said, adding that the goal must be preserved "in any final regulation that goes forward."

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