General Motors Corp. asked the federal government yesterday to suspend implementation of tough automobile carbon monoxide emission standards slated to go into effect in 1981 and 1982, claiming the standards could cost consumers as much as $400 million a year for little health benefit.
At the same time, some Carter administration officials are saying they will continue to listen to auto industry arguments to weaken federal fuel economy standards, despite Transportation Secretary Brock Adams' statements last month that those standards have been made final.
Some high administration officials, who asked that they not be named, said yesterday that automakers are continuing to present their case against the fuel economy standards which require the industry to improve fleet fuel efficiency continually through 1985, when the auto fleets will have to average 27.5 miles per gallon.
This year's automobile fleets had to average 19 mpg.
When Adams told a news conference on June 20 that the fuel efficiency standards had been reviewed by his National Highway Traffic Safety Administration staff and that they had decided to stick with the tough standards, some administration officials were angered that he did not keep an "open mind" on the subject. Those officials have continued to talk with the automakers.
The Commerce Department was particularly irked, claiming DOT had not paid enough attention to claims by the auto industry that it will be forced to charge consumers millions of dollars more for technological changes that could be considerably cheaper just a few years later.
The industry had argued that it could save consumers considerable money, and sharply lessen the inflationary impact of the added costs, if the government allowed it to go slower during the earlier years of complaince. The car-makers are willing to reach the 27.5 mpg by 1985.
But Adams, citing gas lines all around Washington, said he could not agree to ease the requirements, which he said would save 7.7 billion gallons of gasoline over the life of the cars covered by the deadline.
Another high administration official said yesterday it is "extremely unlikely" that President Carter would force Adams to reopen the fuel efficiency standards procedure, "in light of the recent energy developments."
Still, the official quoted earlier said, if the automakers feel they have a case to support easing the standards, the White House has encouraged them to file a formal petirion with DOT to present their case.
"We just want them to know that we can't be closed-minded about something this important," one official said "DOT remains open to evidentiary support for any of the industry's arguments.We must continue to look at the cost of complying with all of these auto regulations to make sure the industry can afford it."
The GM call for eased emission standards came in testimony by GM vice president for environmental activities Betsy Ancker-Johnson before the Environmental Protection Agency.
She contended that air quality in big cities has improved more quickly than the EPA has shown in its calculations, and that forcing the auto industry to adhere to 1981 and 1982 standards will have "no significant effect on public health." CAPTION: Picture 1 and 2, Lone new Volkswagen Rabbit in stock at Cavalier Motors in Alexandria contrasts with the line of cars at Capital Cadillac at 22nd and N Streets NW yesterday as buyers still snap up small cars. By Frank Johnston - The Washington Post