A week ago, the EPA recommended that U.S. vehicle emission standards stay put for the years 2022 through 2025.
According to the Technical Assessment Report the agency issued in July, automakers have so far quite successfully met standards in place since 2012 to cut emissions of the climate-change gas carbon dioxide.
And, the report concluded, they have been able to do so at lower cost than projected, with fewer hybrid and electric cars than the industry had feared it would need to build.
But the agency's early recommendation left the auto industry little time to challenge the limits.
Under the original schedule, a mid-term review that had been included in the emissions rules since before 2012 was to have been completed in April 2018.
Over the last two days, industry lobbyists made a last-ditch effort to block the rules, Reuters reported, urging Congressional negotiators to block the Obama administration from finalizing the emission limits through a provision in a short-term budget resolution that must be passed by this Friday.
President Barack Obama sits in 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car at Detroit Auto Show, Jan 2016
That specific effort ultimately seems to have failed, as The Detroit News recounts this morning, with a draft of the continuing budget resolution lacking such language.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers had earlier issued a statement attributed to its spokesperson Gloria Bergquist.
"EPA's sudden and controversial move to propose auto regulations eight months early—even after Congress warned agencies about taking such steps while political appointees were packing their bags—calls out for congressional action to pause this rulemaking until a thoughtful policy review can occur," she said.
The proposed language would have blocked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from using any funding under the bill to move forward with finalizing its recommendation.
The D.C.-based alliance lobbies Congress and federal agencies on behalf of Fiat Chrysler, Ford, GM, BMW Group, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz USA, Mitsubishi Motors, Porsche, Toyota, Volkswagen Group of America and Volvo Car USA.
When the EPA issued its recommendation last week, the group said the agency had "unnecessarily politicized" the standards review.
1970s Los Angeles smog depicted in the Honda short film
The EPA's emission rules are closely linked to the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) rules issued by the NHTSA, which regulates fuel economy while the EPA sets rules on emissions.
When the EPA gained Supreme Court approval to regulate emissions not only of so-called criteria emissions (carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides) but also the climate-change gas carbon dioxide, the two sets of regulations had to be synced up.
With president-elect Donald Trump having called climate science "bullshit" and stated that it is a Chinese plot to hurt U.S. industry, automakers hoped the emission rules could be relaxed, at least in the U.S.
Changes to U.S. rules would do nothing to alter far more stringent carbon-dioxide limits in China, Europe, and other regions, of course.
Still, Ford CEO Mark Fields said late last week he planned to lobby Trump to modify, delay, or relax the emission standards once he is in office.
Ford CEO Mark Fields at CES 2015
Most other automakers likely support that move as well, whether explicitly or implicitly, to reduce the cost of cleaning up future vehicles in the face of consumer demand for hybrids and electric cars that has remained lower than expected due to continued low gasoline prices.
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