Under the Transportation Department’s proposal, California would not be able to set stricter US emissions standards implemented than the federal government.  AFP/Getty photo by Mark Ralston.  

US emissions standards would stay at 2020 levels through 2026

The Transportation Department has submitted a proposal to the White House which would see US emissions standards frozen at 2020 levels through to 2026, according to Reuters.  The proposal also takes away California’s ability to set stricter standards than the federal government for US automakers’ fleet fuel economy.

Reuters’ sources say the details of the proposal, posted on a government website on Thursday, confirmed that the department submitted the plan to the Office of Management and Budget for review.

The proposal, which Reuters’ sources say address the impacts of rising fuel efficiency standards on the economy, auto industry, environment and safety, could be unveiled as early as next week.

In 2011, the Obama administration negotiated the standards with automakers.  By 2025, under the Obama plan, US fleet-wide fuel efficiency was to reach about 50 miles per gallon and included significant annual increase in automaker requirements.

A review process in 2018 was included in the Obama agreement.

As part of that review, the Transportation Department’s new proposal includes a number of alternatives, but the preferred plan would be to freeze requirements at 2020 levels through to 2026.

Supporters of stricter standards which were put in place to limit greenhouse gas emissions criticized the proposal.  US Senator Tom Carper (D) of Delaware said under the new, Trump administration preferred proposal, Americans would use 206 billion more gallons of gasoline through 2050, compared to the current standards.

As well, the proposal asserts that a 1975 federal law preempts states from imposing emissions rules.

In the past, California has been a major player in tougher US emissions standards.  Earlier this month, the Golden State along with 16 other states filed suit to challenge the Trump administration’s decision to revise the regulations.

While automakers urged President Trump to reach an agreement with California at a May 11 meeting, they are also pushing for changes to the Obama-era standards to address lower gasoline prices and consumers’ shift to larger vehicles.

One week later, California Air Resources Board chief Mary Nicols met with Trump administration officials.

Last week, General Motors chief executive Mary Barra met with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Jahan Wilcox, spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency told Reuters the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration jointly developed the new standards.

According to Reuters, the final proposal could be changed in the inter-agency review process.