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EPA, NHTSA send final vehicle efficiency standards rule to White House

The Trump administration is one step closer to finalizing new proposed fuel economy standards for cars and light-duty trucks that are expected to be less stringent than the existing Obama-era regulations.

On Jan. 15, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration initiated a formal interagency review of part two of the final Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient, or SAFE, Vehicles rule. The second part of the rule will establish revised fuel economy and tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions standards for model years 2021-2026.

The final SAFE Vehicles rule will not be made public until the White House's Office of Management and Budget completes its review and the rule is published, the NHTSA said.

"EPA and NHTSA firmly believe this rule will benefit all Americans by improving the U.S. fleet's fuel economy, reducing air pollution, and helping make new vehicles more affordable for all Americans," the NHTSA said in an emailed statement.

Under the Trump administration, the EPA and NHTSA previously proposed freezing corporate average fuel economy standards for cars and light-duty trucks at 37 miles per gallon for six years beginning with the model year 2020 instead of allowing those standards to ratchet up to 54.5 mpg by 2025 (real-world fuel economy values are about 20% less) as established by the Obama administration.

Although the final standards are expected to fall short of the Obama-era targets, acting NHTSA Administrator James Owens told Reuters in a recent interview that the new mileage requirements are "not going to be flat, as was proposed" and will be "reasonable and achievable."

In addition to setting new auto emissions and fuel efficiency standards, the Trump administration has sought to revoke California's waiver under the Clean Air Act to set its own tougher rules for the transportation sector. The move to revoke California's waiver has spurred legal challenges from the state of California along with several public and investor-owned utilities that could benefit from increased deployment of electric vehicles.