Trump willing to deal with Calif. on auto rules

Source: Camille von Kaenel, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, May 15, 2018

President Trump is “open” to negotiating with California to write one set of clean car rules for the country following his Friday meeting with auto CEOs, according to reports.

He tasked Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to handle the negotiations, according to the Associated Press. The support of the president could help avoid an all-out war with California — a fight that would burden manufacturers with a regulatory muddle and years of uncertainty.

A dozen top auto executives asked Trump, Pruitt and Chao for a more moderate rollback of fuel efficiency rules than the one outlined in a draft administration plan. The CEOs urged the administration to broker a deal with California.

Trump did not push back on the automakers’ concerns, according to sources familiar with the meeting. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers said in a joint statement after the meeting they appreciated Trump’s “openness to a discussion with California on an expedited basis.”

EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have previously held talks with California’s Air Resources Board but they never detailed new targets, and the talks have since stalled.

People who both support and oppose California’s role in setting vehicle rules have said it will be difficult to find common ground. The Golden State and its allies have already sued over EPA’s intentions to lower the vehicle rules. They have vowed to forge ahead with the Obama-era targets, which would bring average real-world fuel economy to 36 miles per gallon in 2025.

Conservative groups, including members of Trump’s transition team, have been urging him to roll back California’s ability to set tougher car rules than the federal government.