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US EPA gives green light to California, other states to set tougher car standards

Highlights

Starts process to rescind Trump-era rollbacks

Trump policy boosted oil demand by 500,000 b/d

Washington — The US Environmental Protection Agency on April 26 took the first steps in dismantling the Trump administration's rollback of fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks, including announcing it will uphold states' rights to set tougher-than-federal rules.

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The proposal ends a battle over California's waiver to set stricter limits, which 14 other states follow.

The Trump administration's fuel economy targets for model years 2022-2025 would have increased US oil demand by an estimated 500,000 b/d.

"I am a firm believer in California's long-standing statutory authority to lead," said EPA Administrator Michael Regan. "The 2019 decision to revoke the state's waiver to enforce its greenhouse gas pollution standards for cars and trucks was legally dubious and an attack on the public's health and wellbeing."

Trump's EPA in September 2019 formally revoked California's waiver to set stricter fuel economy targets, but 23 states and several major cities were fighting the move in court.

The battle over Trump's so-called Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles rule created massive uncertainty for automakers.

Senator Edward J. Markey, Democrat-Massachusetts, urged EPA to "be bold as they both reconsider this part of the SAFE rule and look toward strengthening the national vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards."

Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, said on Twitter to wave goodbye as the "Trump vendetta" against the state's clean car standards, Clean Air Act and electric vehicles faded into the rear-view mirror. "Another strong signal that the Biden Administration is ready to act on climate," she said.