Flurry of green-car rules as Obama administration departs


President Barack Obama sits in 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car at Detroit Auto Show, Jan 2016

President Barack Obama sits in 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car at Detroit Auto Show, Jan 2016

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When it comes to regulations governing the auto industry, the Obama administration does not plan to go gentle into that good night.

The outgoing administration has pushed through a number of new regulations, some related to fuel efficiency, before President-elect Donald Trump takes office next month.

The move is likely a hedge against the incoming president, whose climate and industrial policies are expected to be radically different from his predecessors.

DON'T MISS: EPA keeps car-emission rules to 2025; what happens under Trump?

While Trump has said little about electric cars or increased fuel efficiency, he has pledged support for increased production of fossil fuels, and has promised to "bring back coal."

Obama administration officials may be trying to "flood the zone" and make it difficult for Trump to repeal proposed rules, suggested Jeff Davis of the Eno Center for Transportation think tank in a recent interview with The Detroit News.

The most high-profile regulatory move in recent weeks is the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) decision to maintain emissions standards previously set for 2022 to 2025.

The agency could have waited until 2018 to conduct a review and finalize the standards, but it moved to do so earlier this month.

That decision was roundly criticized by automaker lobbying groups, who believe Trump will heed their calls for lower emission and fuel-economy targets.

The Obama administration has also issued a number of recent rules that affect other industries, including consumer finance and investment.

ALSO SEE: Ford will ask Trump to cut fuel-economy rules, CEO says; 'no demand' for hybrid, electric cars

Ford CEO Mark Fields has said his company plans to ask Trump to reduce the EPA's emission limits in anticipated future conversations with the President-elect.

Trump's campaign message indicated general support for fewer regulations, but when it comes to the auto industry, Trump has primarily focused on U.S. automakers exporting jobs to Mexico.

The President-elect phoned Ford chairman Bill Ford to discuss this, but it has not been reported that emissions standards were part of that conversation.

Fuel gauge

Fuel gauge

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Trump's choice for EPA administrator—Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt—also does not bode well for the agency's future desire to regulate emissions.

Pruitt is a climate-science denier who has sued the very agency he is being tapped to lead multiple times.

Not every federal agency has been as gung ho about new regulations in the last days of the Obama administration, however.

MORE: NHTSA delays penalty rise for carmakers who miss CAFE levels

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently delayed an increase in penalties for automakers that miss fuel-economy targets.

While the EPA sets emissions limits, the NHTSA sets fuel-economy standards. But starting with 2012 model year vehicles, the two agencies have coordinated their standards.

If the NHTSA continues to take a less-aggressive approach to implementing its standards, that could set up a conflict between the rules issued by the two agencies.

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