President Trump formally began the process of reviewing the Obama administration’s strict emissions standards for vehicles on Wednesday, telling manufacturers in Michigan that the decision would grow jobs and help their bottom lines.
During a speech outside of Detroit, Trump told auto executives and workers that he had reopened an assessment of the feasibility of the emissions standards, which the Obama administration had upheld in January.
“We are going to cancel that executive action; we are going to restore the originally scheduled midterm review,” Trump said.
“We are going to ensure that any regulations we have protect and defend your jobs, your factories. We’re going to be fair.”
Department of Transportation (DOT) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials filed paperwork Wednesday to formally reopen the review the standards, which set a goal of an industry-wide fuel economy standard of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
That review will reconsider the Obama administration’s January determination that automakers should continue to abide by that standard. The auto industry has opposed that decision and considers the goal too expensive and difficult to reach given Americans' vehicle-buying habits.
Trump officials have not committed to rewriting the fuel standards, which would require a formal, lengthy rule-making process. Instead, they have pitched their new review as one designed to fulfill the government’s agreement with auto manufacturers.
“These standards are costly for automakers and the American people,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement. “We will work with our partners at DOT to take a fresh look to determine if this approach is realistic.”
The industry had asked the Obama administration to reconsider the fuel standards, which are central to the former president’s climate change agenda.
As soon as Trump won the presidential election in November, the industry turned its attention to him, pushing him to extend former President Obama’s review of the standards. After Obama officials finalized their review in January, the auto industry asked Trump to reopen it.
“The Trump administration has created an opportunity for decision-makers to reach a thoughtful and coordinated outcome predicated on the best and most current data,” Mitch Bainwol, the president and CEO of the Auto Alliance industry group, said on Wednesday.
“After all, these decisions impact the more than 7 million Americans dependent on autos for employment, as well as the driving public seeking affordable transportation. Our industry is committed to producing even safer and more energy-efficient vehicles in the future and that’s what this process is all about.”
Supporters of the standards have warned the Trump administration against undoing the rules. Environmentalists say rolling back the emissions goals will increase pollution that contributes to climate change and public health issues.
“Our cars and trucks are not nearly as clean as they should be, but they're a lot cleaner than they used to be,” said Anna Aurilio, the legislative director at Environment America.
“America should be putting cars that burn too much gasoline in the rear-view mirror. Unfortunately, today’s order is a green light to keep making cars that dirty our air, endanger our health and threaten our children's future.”
Consumer groups, too, said the action would raise prices and hurt drivers.
“A decision to withdraw the standards is nonsensical, as it would merely funnel more money to oil companies at consumers' expense and halt the progress that can be made in both savings for consumers and vehicle efficiency,” said Shannon Baker-Branstetter, the policy counsel for the Consumers Union.
But Trump said the action makes good on a campaign promise to help grow America’s manufacturing sector.
In his speech, he painted Detroit and its auto industry as a sector strangled by government regulations, despite an Obama administration effort to save manufactures from a bankruptcy crisis, a push that created thousands of new jobs.
“It’s a great business, but it’s been pretty well hurt here," Trump said Wednesday. "But it’s not going to be hurt for long.”