Administration floats freeze of CAFE fuel-economy standards in 2020-26

California and other states aren't going to go for that

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is likely to propose freezing fuel economy standards from 2020 through 2026, according to three people briefed on the matter, a move likely to spark a fight with California and other states backing tougher vehicle emissions rules.

The administration is circulating a draft proposal that would include freezing requirements after 2020 as the preferred alternative, but will include a series of other alternatives, the sources said. The formal proposal is expected to be unveiled in the coming weeks and has not been finalized. The Los Angeles Times first reported the plan earlier Friday.

The lengthy draft proposal is also expected to assert that a 1975 federal law preempts states from imposing emissions rules, but the administration is not expected to immediately propose revoking California's waiver under the Clean Air Act to set its own rules.

Automakers want changes to address lower gasoline prices and a shift in U.S. consumer preferences to larger, less fuel-efficient vehicles. They want revisions to the Obama standards to make it easier and less costly to meet targets, which vary depending on the size of vehicles and whether they are classified as cars or trucks.

The Obama administration's rules, negotiated with automakers in 2011, were aimed at doubling average fleet-wide fuel efficiency to about 50 miles per gallon by 2025.

The U.S. Transportation Department and EPA did not immediately comment on Friday, but EPA said earlier this month it had determined the fuel rules through 2025 were not appropriate and would propose revisions.

Stanley Young, spokesman for the California Air Resources Board said: "If enacted, this would harm people's health, boost greenhouse gas pollution and force drivers to pay more money at the pump for years. It would also severely disrupt the U.S. auto industry, compromising its ability to succeed in a highly competitive global market that increasingly values innovative and efficient technologies."

Earlier this week, two auto trade groups met with White House officials, including Christopher Liddell, a White House deputy chief of staff, to discuss the issue, a Trump administration official confirmed.

Automakers, including General Motors CEO Mary Barra and Toyota, have repeatedly urged the Trump administration to try to reach agreement with California to maintain a national program.

California Air Resources Board chief Mary Nichols told Reuters earlier this month the state was willing to make changes in the requirements to help automakers comply.

A group of 12 state attorneys general has threatened to sue if the Trump administration reverses the Obama-era rules.

On Friday, nearly two dozen Democratic U.S. senators said they would oppose any effort by the Trump administration to rescind California's authority to set state vehicle emissions rules, according to a letter reviewed by Reuters.

Reporting by David Shepardson

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