The Environmental Protection Agency in the United States may relax the greenhouse gas emission standards for cars and light trucks in response to the pressure from automakers and keenness of the Trump administration to garner more automobile investments.
According to sources, a joint notification from EPA and the Transportation Department indicating a midterm review of the emission standards may be released by the second week of March.
The expectation is that the "midterm review" will go easy on the fuel efficiency standards through 2025 and relax the rigid standards sought to be enforced. The move is part of the Trump administration's relook policy on many of the Obama-era regulations, which are opposed by the industry.
An EPA spokesperson, however, declined to comment.
Automobile producers have urged Trump appointed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to reconsider the standards for model years 2022 to 2025 which mandated car and light truck fleet to attain an average 54.5 miles per gallon by the end of the stipulated period.
The EPA was readying to lock the standards without any modification.
In 2011, the emissions standards through 2025 were negotiated with the Obama administration by the auto industry.
The deal required automobile companies to double average fuel economy of vehicles to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. One rider was that a mid-term review would decide whether the standards for the final years were viable. However, just before the Trump administration took over, the EPA said it did the review a year in advance and saw no ground in changing the emission rules.
Automakers protested saying that falling gasoline prices have cut the demand for the most fuel-efficient vehicles, making standards achievement more difficult.
The EPA decision in January miffed the automakers who said the move would kill a promised debate over standards. They said the high emission standards were adding to the cost burden and may lead to loss of jobs in the sector where low gasoline prices have already dampened the demand for fuel efficient cars. Also, the limited sales of hybrids and electric cars are rattling the industry.
Auto Makers' Plea To President
The auto makers urged President Donald Trump to reinstate the review of fuel economy regulations.
In the Jan. 24 meeting Trump held with auto executives, the President took a lenient view on excess regulatory controls. Trump is also keen on attracting more car factories to the United States and said many regulatory rules are going "out of control."
The Association of Global Automakers represents 12 automakers that include Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. Honda Motor Co., and Hyundai Motor Co, among others.
The trade body's spokeswoman Annemarie Pender said it has not received a response to its Feb. 21 letter urging the EPA to withdraw the decision.
Indications of policy changes at EPA were already evident when it dumped the plan for framing a rule to crackdown on methane releases from oil and gas wells.
Meanwhile, speculations about the EPA's move triggered a strong reaction from environmental and science groups which urged Pruitt to retain the emission standards.
"EPA's clean car standards are driving unprecedented reductions in carbon pollution and saving drivers money at the pump," said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
EPA Lake Fund Cut
Meanwhile, the proposal of the White House to cut the funding for EPA's Great Lakes pollution cleanup by 97 percent has evoked concern.
The cuts are part of President Trump's initial 2018 budget proposal expressed in a U.S. Office of Management and Budget "passback" indicating drastic cuts in allocations.
The budget pruning proposal seeks to slash annual Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding from $300 million to $10 million. Cumulatively, the cuts would reduce the EPA's total budget by a quarter.
The plan also includes a $13 million cut in compliance monitoring, which the EPA has been using to monitor the safety of drinking water systems.