Trump, Auto Officials Re-Affirm Goal of National Mileage Rules

(Bloomberg) -- California’s top air-quality official held a series of meetings with auto industry and federal officials in Washington on Wednesday who re-affirmed a desire to maintain a single national standard for auto efficiency.

The talks with California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols were set in motion by President Donald Trump’s May 11 instruction to federal agencies that oversee the fuel efficiency regulations to pursue talks with California on revisions to the standards.

After the meeting, White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters said the administration would continue the conversation “so that domestic automakers do not have to comply with two different regulatory regimes.”

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers, the auto industry’s primary trade associations, declined to comment on the meetings but issued a joint statement thanking the White House for orchestrating them.

"It’s important that we maintain an open dialogue with all stakeholders as we work through the rule-making process," the Alliance and Global said in a statement. "As we have often stated, automakers support continuous, year-over-year improvements in fuel economy but future standards must account for marketplace realities.”

Stanley Young, an Air Resources Board spokesman, said the parties to the talks “agreed to have additional meetings.”

A leaked draft of proposed changes to the rules, led by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, recommended freezing mileage requirements at 37 miles per gallon from 2020 through 2026. The draft also asserted that a 1975 law prohibited California from setting its own vehicle efficiency standards.

Automakers have stressed the need for California and federal regulators continue coordinating the fuel efficiency standards as part of a so-called national program, giving carmakers consistent requirements nationwide.

The companies aggressively lobbied the Trump administration to review the feasibility of the rules but are now worried that a federal rollback will prompt a lengthy legal dispute between Washington and Sacramento and roil their businesses.

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