New rules? Feds, California Held Talks on Vehicle Emissions

Discussions between CARB, EPA, NHTSA and the White House could avert legal battle over fuel efficiency restrictions.

Double exposure of traffic in clouds
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Federal regulators met with their counterparts in California to talk about having a single set of requirements for U.S. vehicle emissions. 

A spokesperson for the California Air Resources Board, or CARB, confirmed to The Drive that the discussions, initially reported by Reuters, took place, on Dec. 15 in California.

The talks with CARB involved William Wehrum, head of the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Air and Radiation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration deputy chief Heidi King, and Mike Catanzaro, a senior White House aide on environment and energy issues.

The meeting followed requests by auto manufacturers that the White House and California reach an accord to avert a legal fight over the rules that could mean the industry operating under a cloud of uncertainty.

Automakers also want the rules to take into account renewed appetite by consumers for bigger, less efficient cars and lower prices at the pump.

“We’ve had productive conversations under way with CARB and I would hope those conversations continue to be productive,” Wehrum told Reuters on Friday. “I think a shared goal is to maintain one national program.”

CARB and the Obama administration in 2011 came to an agreement with major car manufacturers to almost double average fleetwide fuel efficiency to more than 50 miles a gallon by 2025. The agreement included a review to determine by April 2018 whether the final rules were workable.

The Obama White House said it finished its review in January 2017 without enacting any changes.

California, with the backing of more than a dozen other states, might try to enforce its current and more restrictive emissions rules regardless of whether the Trump administration weakens the 2022-2025 rules, according to Reuters.

New York state's attorney general and 12 other top state law officials in June said they would go to court to fight any move to soften vehicle fuel rules.