Three government agencies agree to "coordinate" their actions and announce "a single timeframe" for proposing new rules. This signals "continued collaboration" among the trio.


But actually, this is a bigger deal than you might think.

In the 10 months since President Barack Obama announced a single set of national rules for raising the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements and lowering the greenhouse-gas emissions of 2012-2016 vehicles, the focus has shifted to what comes next. That would be the standards for 2017-2025 cars.

With the historically aggressive California Air Resources Board (CARB) having the legal right to set its own, more stringent standards for tailpipe emissions than national limits, automakers have feared that it will do just that. If so, it would put them right back into the situation they fear: multiple standards for multiple states.

But now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have come together with CARB and issued a statement saying all three will coordinate the timing for release of their first proposals for the 2017-2025 standards.

Ray LaHood and President Barack Obama

Ray LaHood and President Barack Obama

In the statement, the heads of all three agencies provided happy, positive, upbeat quotes about "cooperation," "working together," and a "new model of government."

DoT secretary Ray LaHood also promised "a standard that works for automakers across the country," though automakers will clearly wait to see the numbers before they agree.

The chosen deadline is September 1 of this year, after which there will likely be a period of intense analysis, discussion, and politicking.

With phrases like "job-killing" now a regular part of discussion about any government regulation, these standards are likely to come under greater scrutiny than did the previous set, which automakers had practically begged for so they could freeze investment decisions for 2012 and later cars.

The proof will be in the pudding, though. The Federal agencies are likely to issue identical standards (the EPA's measured in emissions, the NHTSA's in miles-per-gallon), but whether CARB does its own thing or not remains to be seen.

The chances of that seem somewhat likely now than they were a week ago, though. And that's a start.

[Environmental Protection Agency]