Continuing political turmoil and news coverage of the Trump Administration haven't stopped the president's agency heads from drastically reshaping policies on energy, the environment, and emissions.
Comments are now being taken on the reopened EPA limits on vehicular carbon emissions for 2022 through 2025, although reporters had to dig to find out how the public could weigh in.
Meanwhile, the NHTSA is now developing the corresponding gas-mileage rules for the same period—and has said it will consider rolling back corporate average fuel-economy requirements to lower numbers from earlier years.
On the other hand, numerous states have aligned to fight any backsliding in emission and fuel-economy rules designed to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from road vehicles.
That greenhouse gas is known to contribute to climate change, and the Paris Agreement signed by the U.S. late in 2016 committed the U.S. to plans to reduce carbon emission from all sources, as China, Europe, India, and other signatories will do as well.
(President Trump has promised to withdraw the U.S. from that treaty, although the process will take four years.)
California state capitol, Sacramento
The efforts by the states appear to put them on a collision course with the federal government, as described by Reuters in an article last week.
The "collision course" identified by reporter David Shepardson has no obvious off-ramps at the moment.
The powerful California Air Resources Board warned at a hearing last week on the reopened EPA vehicle-carbon limits that the state could withdraw from the country's vehicle-emissions program if the EPA doesn't stick with the current regulations.
CARB official Annette Hebert also fired a warning shot directly at EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, a climate-science denier who sued the agency he now heads more than a dozen times as attorney general of Oklahoma to prevent it enforcing emission laws against the state's fossil-fuel industry.
The EPA is required by law to base its regulatory policies and decisions on science, a concern that has become more prominent as scientists have been removed from the agency's Science Advisory Board. Pruitt has said he plans to replace them with representatives of the industries being regulated.
“Science doesn’t change based on election results,” Hebert said.
EPA administrator Scott Pruitt [photo from 2014]
If California and the states that have adopted its tougher emission rules were to withdraw from the national pact, automakers would be faced with a scenario they averted in 2012 by largely agreeing to the tougher rules proposed by California.
That would be the emergence of two different sets of carbon-emission limits among states, requiring them to adjust vehicle mix to ensure that each state's limits weren't exceeded, at the risk of hefty fines for non-compliance.
The rules must be finalized within six months, but Reuters reports that to date, there has not been a single meeting among the federal regulators, the California board, and automakers.
Even Global Automakers, a lobbying group for vehicle manufacturers, has urged a single national standard.
Whether it arrives in time to avert the industry's nightmare remains to be seen.
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