US’ EPA says Obama-era emissions standards for cars too high

Kostis Geropoulos - Energy & Russian Affairs Editor, New Europe

Under Pruitt’s leadership, the EPA is still examining the California waiver

Heightening the tension between the administration of US President Donald Trump and the State of California, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt is expected to announce the completion of a Midterm Evaluation (MTE) process for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for cars and light trucks for 2022-2025 models.

Pruitt is expected to reveal that in light of recent data, the current standards are not appropriate and should be revised, the EPA said in a press release on April 2. “The Obama Administration’s determination was wrong,” Pruitt said in the press release. “Obama’s EPA cut the Midterm Evaluation process short with politically charged expediency, made assumptions about the standards that didn’t comport with reality, and set the standards too high,” Pruitt argued.

The move is also expected to cause a reaction from the European Union, which has spearheaded efforts to curb CO2 emissions and has criticised Trump’s plans to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord. The EU has also said it plans to boost its cooperation with the US states and industries that share Brussels’ climate change objectives and plans to cut C02 emissions.

Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), the EPA sets national standards for vehicle tailpipe emissions of certain pollutants. Through a CAA waiver granted by the EPA, California can impose stricter standards for vehicle emissions of certain pollutants than federal requirements, the EPA said, noting that under Pruitt’s leadership, the Agency is still examining the California waiver. “Cooperative federalism doesn’t mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country,” Pruitt said, adding that the 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,” Pruitt said.

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