March 15, 2017 / 9:00 AM / 6 months ago

Trump won't seek to roll back California vehicle authority

WASHINGTON, March 15 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump will announce the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will revive a review of the feasibility of strict fuel efficiency standards through 2025, but will not seek to withdraw California’s authority to set its own vehicle rules, a White House official said late on Tuesday.

Reuters reported on Monday the administration planned to announce the review on Wednesday as Trump heads to Michigan, home of the U.S. auto industry.

A White House official briefing reporters said the Trump administration will spend the next year working on the review to determine if the 2022-2025 model-year rules are feasible. The administration has made no decisions on how or if the standards should be revised.

But the Trump administration is not picking an immediate fight with California, which has long drawn the ire of automakers for setting more aggressive environmental vehicle rules, including requiring zero emission cars.

In 2012, California, the most populous U.S. state, agreed to harmonize its vehicle emissions rules with Obama administration rules that were aimed at doubling average fleetwide fuel efficiency to 54.5 mpg by 2025. Thirteen other states have adopted California rules that account for about 40 percent of U.S. vehicle sales.

California has a waiver under the Clean Air Act to set its own vehicle rules and has said it would vigorously fight any effort to revoke it. The administration official did not rule out a potential effort to restrict California’s authority at a future date but said the White House hoped to work collaboratively with the state on the review.

Securing America’s Energy Future (SAFE), a non-partisan group of energy advocates and retired military leaders, urged the federal government, California and others to work together.

”There’s no reason for environmentalists, automakers and conservatives to risk a nuclear war over these rules, which will result in zero progress for all sides,” said SAFE’s chief executive, Robbie Diamond.

In Michigan, Trump will meet with chief executives from General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and top U.S. executives from Toyota Motor Corp, Daimler AG and others, and speak to autoworkers.

EPA had had until April 2018 to decide whether the standards were feasible under a “midterm review,” but moved up its decision to a week before President Barack Obama left office in January.

Automakers argue the vehicle emissions rules will impose significant costs and are out of step with consumer preferences. They say they need more flexibility to meet the rules amid low gas prices.

Environmentalists say the rules reduce fuel costs and greenhouse gases, and they have vowed to sue if the Trump administration weakens them. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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