The White House confirmed that federal officials pulled out of discussions with California’s top clean air regulator over plans to roll back Obama-era fuel economy rules. American automakers have a large stake in the outcome of these talks.
A spokesperson for the California Air Resources Board (CARB), Stanley Young, told Reuters on Wednesday that there were no substantive discussions when EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler met with CARB Chair Mary Nichols two weeks ago.
“The administration broke off communications before Christmas and never responded to our suggested areas of compromise — or offered any compromise proposal at all,” Young said. “We concluded at that point that they were never serious about negotiating.”
In a statement released Thursday, the White House said that the Trump administration has decided to discontinue discussions, the LA Times reported. Anna M. Phillips wrote that each side blames the other.
The Obama administration had previously set gas mileage standards to go up significantly by 2025, but last summer the Trump administration proposed freezing fuel efficiency standards for six years. Attorneys general from 19 states and Washington, DC, quickly signaled plans to sue the EPA.
Reuters reporters noted that while most automakers oppose freezing the requirements, they still want relief from standards calling for a roughly 5% annual reduction in carbon emissions.
Ford Motor Company indicated disappointment that the talks between CARB and federal officials had fallen apart, according to Reuters. Ford’s president of global operations Joe Hinrichs said, “The auto industry needs regulatory certainty, not protracted litigation.” Other automakers either did not comment or did not respond to the outlet’s requests for comment.
Auto industry advocacy group the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents 70% of all car and light truck sales in the United States, issued a statement about the breakdown in talks.
“Automakers support year-over-year improvements in fuel economy that align with the marketplace,” the group said. They encouraged everyone to continue focusing on achieving a national program that maximizes fuel economy and carbon reductions while preserving vehicle affordability and employment.
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