President Trump plans to reopen a review of the fuel economy standards that automakers must meet in the coming years, individuals briefed on the matter said, a sign that the White House could ease environmental regulations the industry finds onerous.
Trump will travel to Michigan on Wednesday and make the announcement alongside major U.S. automakers, the individuals said. A General Motors spokesman confirmed that chief executive Mary Barra will be in attendance. Ford and Fiat Chrysler did not respond to requests for comment.
The announcement will be the Trump administration’s latest move to scrutinize environmental regulations put in place during the Obama years. The White House already plans to significantly reduce the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt questioned last week whether humans contribute to climate change.
In 2012, the Obama administration approved fuel economy standards that required automakers to average 54.5 miles per gallon across their fleets of vehicles by 2025 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A follow-up review was slated to begin this year, but the Obama administration expedited it after November’s election and determined in January that the standards were sound. In 2016, U.S. cars and light trucks were expected to average 35.5 miles per gallon.
Wednesday’s announcement is expected to launch a new review of those standards.
Last month, trade associations representing the major automobile companies asked Pruitt to reverse the January decision and restart the review. They contended that the Obama administration did not consider consumers’ preference for large, less-efficient vehicles, and requested that the review be conducted on its original timeline.
Trump’s decision to revive the review does not necessarily mean the standards will be lowered. Nevertheless, easing the federal regulations would not have a significant impact on its own, as automakers will still be expected to meet higher standards put in place by the California Air Resources Board.
The administration is not likely to revoke a waiver Wednesday that gives California the authority to set its own emissions standards, sources said.
Democrats and environmental groups have already begun preparing to combat any attempt by the administration to ease the standards.
“By jumping in the speeding car with the Trump administration, [automakers] are putting themselves in danger of swerving off a cliff,” Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) said in a call with reporters last week. “We know that simultaneously the U.S. has a technological and economic imperative to keep our cars fuel efficient.”
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