President Trump will ask federal regulators Wednesday to formally evaluate the Obama administration’s landmark greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars.
The action, a top request from the automaker lobby to the new president, is the first step toward potentially weakening the aggressive standards that set a goal of a 54.5 mile-per-gallon auto fleet in 2025.
Trump will make the announcement during a trip to Michigan, the center of the domestic auto industry. He is expected to frame the action as a way to help auto industry jobs and consumer choice.
A senior White House official told reporters Tuesday that the review of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) greenhouse gas standards would fulfill a promise Obama made in 2012 to the industry. The EPA developed the standards as a single program alongside the Department of Transportation’s fuel economy rules, popularly known as Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standards.
Automakers agreed to comply with the standards — which get stronger through the 2025 model year — in exchange for a formal review in 2018 into whether they’re still feasible for 2022 to 2025.
But the EPA under Obama completed that review in January, days before Trump’s inauguration, an action that automakers said violated their agreement.
“We’re going to pull back the EPA’s determination, because we don’t think it’s right,” the White House official said.
“And we’re going to spend another year looking at the data in front of us, making sure everything is right, so that when we come to 2018, we can set standards that are technologically feasible, economically feasible, that allow the auto industry to continue to grow and create jobs, which is very important to the president.”
The official called the previous administration’s process “very short-circuited,” and accused those regulators of ignoring “a voluminous record of data” about the shortcomings of the standards.
But the official cautioned that the Trump administration is not committing to roll back the standards at this point. Any changes would require a formal rulemaking process, which would likely take a year or more and could be subject to lawsuits from environmentalists and other opponents.
The order will be the latest in a line of orders and actions from Trump to repeal or weaken Obama environmental regulations.
Trump last month ordered the EPA to begin the process of repealing Obama’s Clean Water Rule. EPA head Scott Pruitt has canceled a regulation on chemical plant safety and an effort to gather data for a potential methane emissions rule for oil and natural gas drilling.
Trump has proposed cutting a quarter of the EPA’s budget, and is expected to sign an order as soon as this week to start undoing the Clean Power Plan, the coal leasing moratorium on federal land and other climate change programs.