Wheeler says U.S. needs ’50-state solution’

Source: Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, July 26, 2018

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said yesterday that the United States needs a single national standard for automotive fuel efficiency, signaling a looming battle with California and other states that follow its tougher tailpipe rules.

“What we don’t want to see is two different standards for the country,” Wheeler told reporters at EPA headquarters in Washington.

What’s needed, he said, is a “50-state solution.”

His remarks provide a peek at Wheeler’s thinking ahead of a much-anticipated announcement on weakening the Obama-era clean car rules.

As soon as tomorrow, EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are expected to propose freezing fuel economy targets at 2020 levels through 2026, rather than maintaining the year-over-year increases that automakers agreed to under the Obama administration (E&E News PM, July 19).

The agencies are also expected to solicit public comment on revoking California’s Clean Air Act waiver, which allows the state to set more stringent tailpipe rules than the federal ones.

Both moves would spark a legal battle with California and the 13 other states that have adopted its standards. Those states represent about 40 percent of the U.S. auto market.

Said Wheeler, “We certainly want to work with the state of California to make sure they’re comfortable with the direction the government wants to go.”

The EPA chief’s remarks came after the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, warned EPA against a “foolish” move on car rules.

“The greatest source of air pollution comes from mobile sources now,” Carper told reporters yesterday. “And my focus is how do we make sure that we don’t do something foolish with respect to the fuel efficiency standards.”

Carper added, “I think Andrew Wheeler is scheduled before our EPW Committee next week. He and I have talked about it several times. And this will be a primary issue for us to discuss at that hearing.”

Carper deflected a question about whether he would consider introducing legislation to block the Trump administration from rescinding the California waiver.

Reporter Nick Sobczyk contributed.