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California sues Trump administration for data behind fuel economy rollback

Washington — The California Air Resources Board Friday filed suit to compel the Trump administration to release data and analysis behind a proposal to freeze fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks through model year 2026.

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The proposal would increase US oil demand by an estimated 500,000 b/d.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler said Thursday at the Washington Auto Show that he expects to issue the final rule by spring or early summer, missing a recent target of March.

The policy would freeze fuel economy standards at the 2020 target of 43.7 mpg and revoke California's long-held waiver to set its own tougher standards, which a dozen other states follow.

Wheeler said he met with CARB officials three times but decided to end the discussions without reaching an agreement. He said EPA's goal has always been to find a 50-state solution.

"We embrace federalism and the role of states, but federalism does not mean that one state can dictate the standards for the entire nation," he said.

Wheeler said the Obama-era standards needed to be weakened because most automakers were only meeting them through fees and banked credits, not through actual efficiency improvements.

California's suit claims EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration failed to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request filed in September.

"The Trump administration has repeatedly failed to comply with California's FOIA request, and the reason is clear: They are unwilling to admit that the facts and analysis simply do not support their desired outcome," CARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols said in a statement.

California is expected to file an additional lawsuit if the Trump administration revokes its waiver to set higher standards.

-- Meghan Gordon, meghan.gordon@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Valarie Jackson, newsdesk@spglobal.com