Calif. asks White House budget office to meet on car rules

Source: Debra Kahn, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, June 7, 2018

California regulators are asking for a meeting with the White House budget office — a last-ditch attempt to avoid a protracted legal battle over greenhouse gas standards for cars.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) sent a letter yesterday asking for a meeting with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the White House Office of Management and Budget. That’s where the Trump administration’s proposed revision of clean car rules has been sitting since late last week.

The rulemaking process was kick-started by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s April announcement that clean car rules for model years 2022 to 2025 were “inappropriate” and should be revised. The move would create two sets of tailpipe standards and set up a legal fight with California, which wrote the rules alongside the Obama administration.

The proposal is still under wraps, but sources have said that it will outline a series of alternatives, and the preferred option will be to freeze fuel economy targets at 2020 levels through 2026. EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration submitted it last week to OMB, which will review it before publishing it for public comment (Greenwire, June 4).

State officials reiterated the same concerns they have been raising at recent meetings with administration officials and noted their willingness to negotiate.

“CARB has participated in a number of high-level meetings with the White House and federal agencies, but we have not been given any specific proposals to respond to, and so remain concerned that the agencies are departing from the evidence and the law, as well as failing to honor our historic partnership,” wrote Steve Cliff, CARB’s deputy executive officer. “This matter is of vital importance to public health and the environment, and it is essential that we have an opportunity to meet with OIRA.” CARB first asked for the meeting on June 1, he said.

Cliff noted that automakers are in favor of annual increases in fuel economy. CARB met with the main automaker trade groups late last month, as well as with the White House. “Although we may not agree with all the specifics of the industry proposals, we remain open to discuss alternatives and potential flexibilities that properly comply with the law and the evidence,” he wrote.

California has already begun preparations for the standards to diverge, both by filing suit against EPA over its decision to begin rolling them back and by soliciting public comments on a proposal to stop accepting compliance with the federal standards as evidence of compliance with the state standards (Climatewire, May 8).