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President Trump Orders U.S. EPA to Reconsider Its Review of Obama’s Proposed Vehicle Fuel Efficiency Rules

On March 15, 2017, while standing before a group of auto industry executives and workers in Detroit, Michigan, President Donald Trump announced that he has ordered the U.s. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review its recent determination that automakers will be able to comply with the 2022-2025 emissions limits proposed in 2012 by the Obama administration. That determination was made by the EPA in January 2017, just one week before Trump took office, even though the EPA had until April 2018 to make the determination. In the speech, Trump referred to the January 2017 determination as an “eleventh hour executive action” by the Obama administration to force what the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) say “may be the single most important decision that EPA has made in recent history.” Although Trump’s order to the EPA requires nothing more than a “review” of the January 2017 determination and therefore, will not result in any immediate effect, it is clear that the order is the first step towards rolling back the 2022-2025 emissions limits proposed by President Obama.

In 2012, the Obama administration approved various plans intended to encourage automakers to increase the production of electric and hybrid vehicles and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Included in those plans was a proposed limitation on vehicular GHG emissions that would require cars, on average, to get more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025.

The EPA was given until April 2018 to complete a determination as to whether automakers would be able to manufacture vehicles in compliance with the proposed emissions limits.

In January 2017, the EPA determined that automakers could manufacture vehicles in compliance with the proposed emissions limits. The determination came just one week before President Trump took office.

Many speculated that Trump, in conjunction with his March 15 announcement, would also reveal plans to revoke the EPA waiver that allows the State of California to enforce emissions regulations that are stricter than the national standards. However, President Trump has yet to take action against the waiver.

When the calendar flips to 2018, all eyes will be on the EPA in anticipation of its revised “determination” regarding the proposed 2022-2025 emissions limits. And, in the event the EPA does a complete reversal of its initial determination in January 2017, many blue states will likely follow Connecticut’s lead and file legal challenges, as will environmental groups.

(Martin P. Stratte)