Scott Pruitt, the head of the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA), has revealed plans to roll back emissions standards for vehicles in a move that could impact the country’s transport emissions for decades to come.
In a statement released yesterday Pruitt said the Obama administration had set vehicle emissions standards too high and was guilty of rushing through new rules with “politically charged expediency” just before leaving office.
Pruitt said he would revise the standards imposed by Obama’s EPA, which require trucks and cars sold in the US to average more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025.
The EPA is also re-examining a special waiver given to the Californian auto market under the Clean Air Act, which allows the state to impose stricter emissions standards for vehicles sold in its state than federal law requires.
The waiver is important because California is by far the largest US car market and some 12 other states follow its regulatory lead, creating a standards bloc covering about one third of the entire US auto market. As such, carmakers routinely ensure new vehicles are manufactured according to the more demanding Californian state vehicle emissions standards.
“Cooperative federalism doesn’t mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country,” Pruitt warned yesterday. “EPA will set a national standard for greenhouse gas emissions that allows auto manufacturers to make cars that people both want and can afford – while still expanding environmental and safety benefits of newer cars. It is in America’s best interest to have a national standard, and we look forward to partnering with all states, including California, as we work to finalise that standard.”
The emissions standards introduced by the Obama administration – in part as a condition of the post-financial crash auto industry bailout engineered by the Obama White House – were widely credited as a key plank in US efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, drive the market for electric vehicles, and honour the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Earlier this year data from the Energy Information Administration revealed transport is now the leading emitter in the US, overtaking power generation.
As such, Pruitt’s announcement, which is the latest in a series of moves by the Trump administration to sweep away Obama-era environmental protections, represents a major blow for environmental campaigners.
However, green groups will harbour hopes they could protect the planned standards through potential legal action.