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EPA chief to sign fuel economy determination this weekend: sources

US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt will sign afinal determination by Sunday which will begin a months-long effort toweaken US fuel economy standards and likely set off a legal battle withCalifornia and other states, administration and industry sources saidFriday.

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Pruitt's determination will claim that vehicle efficiency rules for 2022through 2025 must be revised. Pruitt is expected to publicly announce hisplans on Tuesday, although sources said Friday that final plans for theannouncement were still in flux.

An EPA spokesman declined to comment Friday on Pruitt's plans.

California has a waiver to craft its own fuel economy standards and otherstates have followed its lead.

The California Air Resources Board voted last year to uphold its autotailpipe emissions limits for 2022-25 model years. Chairwoman MaryNichols criticized automakers at the time for pushing for a new review ofthe limits only to complain to California regulators that they do notwant to meet two sets of standards.

The Auto Alliance trade group has campaigned for one national program,arguing automakers cannot make two different fleets.

In January 2017, EPA determined ahead of schedule and in the final daysof the Obama administration that US automakers are meeting the targetsquicker and at lower costs than expected, leaving the industry more thanable to meet the 2025 goal of 54.5 mpg for the nationwide fleet average.The original deadline was April 2018.

The rules for corporate average fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissionsimpact automakers' decisions about vehicle body weights, enginespecifications, and promotion of hybrid and electric vehicles.

A recent analysis by the Council on Foreign Relations, found that underhigh production potential forecasts put out by the US Energy InformationAdministration, rolling back US fuel efficiency standards would hinder UScrude export growth.

If the Obama-era standards are maintained, the US will become a netexporter as soon as 2021 with net exports of about 1.45 million b/d in2022, the study claims. But if those standards are rolled back, netexports in 2022 would drop to only 2,500 b/d.

"Weakening fuel economy standards would severely hamper the economicbenefits of US export capabilities," the report states. -- Brian Scheid, brian.scheid@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Richard Rubin, newsdesk@spglobal.com