with Paulina Firozi

THE LIGHTBULB

At first, the Trump administration wanted to freeze standards aimed at curbing climate change. But now there is a bit of a thaw.

The administration has decided to propose actually requiring auto companies to improve automobile fuel efficiency, The Post's Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis and Josh Dawsey report.

The decision is a notable U-turn for President Trump, whose deputies for the past year have sought to freeze those standards entirely. It means his administration may actually put in place rules for newly manufactured cars and light trucks that will curb climate-warming emissions from the nation's biggest greenhouse gas contributor: the transportation sector.

Here's what we know right now: According to senior federal officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the yet-to-be-published rule would involve requiring auto companies to improve fuel efficiency at a pace of 1.5 percent a year.

One reason for the reversal is the number-crunchers couldn't quite make the math work on an outright freeze. The administration had "yet to finalize the rollback because it was still trying to devise a formula showing that the benefits of the rule would outweigh the costs, according to two senior federal officials," The Post team writes.

Still, whatever the new rule is, it will fall short of what President Obama aimed for. The Obama administration, by comparison, sought to raise the average mileage of cars and light trucks from 37 miles per gallon to about 51 mpg by model year 2025. It ended up being the most significant climate regulation Obama put in place while in office.

And the Trump administration is still seeking to strip California of its right to set tailpipe emissions on its own. That state along with 22 others are challenging that decision to revoke the most-populous state’s right to set pollution limits on cars and light trucks in federal court.

Read more here:

POWER PLAYS

— California is still on fire: There are multiple blazes still burning in both the northern and southern parts of the state. In Northern California, the Kincade Fire continued into a ninth day and has burned through 76,825 acres, the Los Angeles Times reports in this map outlining where all the blazes are located in the state. It was 60 percent contained. The most recent Hillside Fire that broke out Thursday had burned through 200 acres and was 50 percent contained. It prompted the evacuation of 1,300 residents and damaged at least six homes, a Post team reports. The Getty Fire had burned 745 acres and some residents were still under evacuation in the area. “The fire was 30% contained as of Thursday morning, but firefighters remained concerned about red flag conditions that will continue through Thursday night,” the L.A. Times reports.

  • A smoky sky: “As the Southern California fires burned, a smoky haze draped the Los Angeles skyline. The county government warned residents of unhealthy air and advised them to stay inside and shut their doors and windows,” The Post’s Scott Wilson, Kim Bellware, Andrew Freedman and Reis Thebault wrote.
  • No rain in sight: The Santa Ana wind event was set to ease Thursday evening, but still the Los Angeles area is not expected to see much rain in the next few weeks. “Critical fire weather warnings have been extended through Friday night for the windiest spots of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, continuing red-flag conditions for an additional 24 hours,” per the L.A. Times.

— Democrats want former Perry aide to testify: Hours before the House voted to pass a resolution to formally authorize and set guidelines for the impeachment inquiry, Democratic lawmakers said they have planned a Nov. 4 deposition for Brian McCormack, outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry's former top aide. “Democrats' request for a deposition with McCormack, which an official working on the impeachment inquiry revealed to reporters, is part of a strategy of seeking testimony from lower-level aides amid stonewalling by some senior officials in the Trump administration,” E&E News reports. Perry has so far refused to comply with the impeachment inquiry, ignoring a subpoena last month seeking documents of his discussions with Ukraine.

— Another day, another rollback: The Environmental Protection Agency is set to roll back a 2015 Obama-era rule meant to limit toxic metals from coal-fired power plants, the New York Times reports. The new rules are meant to extend the life of old coal plants in the wake of nationwide closures because of competition from cheaper natural gas and renewable energy sources. “The move is part of a series of efforts by the Trump administration to relax restrictions on coal-fired power plants and promote the construction of new ones even as market forces continue the industry’s decline and scientific evidence mounts about the need to reduce fossil fuel use to avert catastrophic climate change,” the Times reports. Environmental groups are concerned the change could mean increased contamination from these power plants that would lead to health issues.

— Where to locate the canceled international climate conference: The Spanish government offered to host the United Nations’ COP25 summit in Madrid after Chile withdrew as a host of the major climate change summit, Reuters reports. “I hope that this generous offer from the president of Spain … represents a solution,” Chilean President Sebastián Piñera said. “We have shared this information with the leading authorities at the United Nations.” The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is “waiting to receive an official letter from Spain offering to host the talks and would then organize a meeting to assess the offer,” per the report.

— One of the largest spills in North Dakota: The Keystone pipeline system leaked 383,000 gallons of oil in North Dakota in a now-contained spill. Karl Rockeman, the director of the state Department of Environmental Quality’s division of water quality, said it was “one of the larger spills in the state,” the New York Times reports. The spill site, which occurred in a small town in northeast North Dakota, did not have residences nearby and the wetland is not a drinking water source. Rockeman could not confirm if cleanup had started at the site.

The reaction: “We don’t yet know the extent of the damage from this latest tar sands spill, but what we do know is that this is not the first time this pipeline has spilled toxic tar sands, and it won’t be the last,” said the Sierra Club’s Catherine Collentine. “We’ve always said it’s not a question of whether a pipeline will spill, but when, and once again TC Energy has made our case for us.”

— Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot owner to merge into fourth-largest carmaker: The companies have agreed to a $48 billion merger in a push to “advance green technologies and pivot toward an autonomous future,” The Post’s Rachel Siegel reports. The move comes as car manufacturers face growing pressure to reach strict emissions goals in Europe and China, as well as other markets. “The United States has not adopted the same degree of emissions standards in place in Europe and China, but automakers and consumers here are still enticed by the opportunities that electric and autonomous vehicles could bring,” Siegel adds.

DAYBOOK

Coming Up

  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing to examine the nominations of James P. Danly, of Tennessee, to be a Member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and Katharine MacGregor, of Pennsylvania, to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior on Nov. 5.
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy holds a legislative hearing on Nov. 6.  

EXTRA MILEAGE

— Hero horses: Watch a horse run back toward two others during a Southern California blaze this week, via CBS Evening News.