Calif., EPA each waiting for the other to resume talks

Source: Debra Kahn, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Despite a breakdown in negotiations, both the Trump administration and California have signaled they’re still open to talking about clean car rules.

But each side is waiting for more information.

Under the Obama administration, California and federal clean car rules were linked, along with those of a dozen other states that are signed on to California’s regulations.

State regulators say they don’t have enough data to come up with an alternate plan to freezing President Obama’s declining fuel economy standards at 2020 levels through 2026, as the Trump EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have proposed to do.

“There is no way to continue this conversation without a full understanding of how the OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] plan to proceed with compliance and evidence of the burdens they face,” California Air Resources Board spokesman Dave Clegern said in an email Friday. “By the same token, CARB is unable fully to evaluate the federal proposal based on the information made available to date.”

California sent a letter to automakers last month asking for more information on their issues with the existing rule and is meeting with those that have responded through the end of the month.

But regulators are still waiting on many companies to respond, as well as the results of a Freedom of Information Act request filed last month with EPA and NHTSA asking for technical studies and data that the agencies used in crafting the proposed freeze.

The FOIA, filed Sept. 11, gave the agencies 20 days to provide information on a dozen types of studies and data sets, including the models the agencies used to predict increases in traffic fatalities by vehicle weight and age.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, though, blamed California regulators last week for failing to follow through on their promises to talk.

“They promised they would be able to sit down with us within a week of the proposal, and it’s been eight weeks this week,” he said Thursday in an interview in California’s Central Valley, where he was touring water infrastructure with Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.).

“It’s now been eight weeks,” he said, “and I’m still waiting for the counter from CARB” (Climatewire, Oct. 12).

EPA and NHTSA have held three public hearings on their proposal; the public comment period ends Oct. 26. No automakers at last month’s hearings said they supported freezing the standards, although Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV said the standards are difficult to meet given consumer preferences for less fuel-efficient vehicles (Greenwire, Oct. 2).

Last month, California amended its own clean car rules to maintain the state’s authority to enforce the Obama-era rules through 2025 by specifying that automakers can still submit one emissions test for both state and federal compliance, so long as the federal standards remain unchanged. If the federal standards do change, manufacturers would have to comply with California’s rules separately (E&E News PM, Sept. 28).