Battle Brewing Over New Fuel Economy, Pollution Standards

According to an official with the Obama administration, the White House is continuing to talk with environmental groups and the state of California about 2017-2025 pollution and fuel-economy standards even as the House works to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from imposing new tailpipe emissions regulations.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration administrator David Strickland said the EPA and the California need to be involved in the creation of the new standards. President Obama and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, he said, “stand shoulder-to-shoulder on this.”

Addressing the Consumer Federation of America conference in Washington, D.C., Strickland said: “We need to do this together. Regardless of what happens on the Hill, we’re working very hard today to get these rules done by September.”

Earlier this week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a bill that would strip the EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. If passed into law, the bill would also prohibit the state of California from enforcing its own pollution standards and would make the NHTSA the only agency with authority to set fuel economy standards nation-wide.

White House spokesman Matt Lehrich said the proposed legislation “harms America’s health by taking away our ability to decrease air pollution.”

He added, “Instead of holding big polluters accountable, this amendment overrules public health experts and scientists. Finally, at a time when America’s families are struggling with the cost of gasoline, the amendment would undercut fuel efficiency standards that will save Americans money at the pump while also decreasing our reliance on foreign oil.”

The full House is expected to vote the bill into law within the next few weeks, although Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has predicted that it will not be passed by the Senate.

President Obama has proposed raising fuel economy standards to between 47 mpg and 62 mpg by 2025. The White House is expected to introduce its proposal as early as September and hopes to adopt them during the third quarter of 2012.

Automakers have not announced an official position on the matter, but most have voiced support for the adoption of national pollution and fuel economy standards. They claim that having standardized targets will be less confusing and wasteful than a patchwork approach that includes multiple state and federal regulations.

The federal fuel economy standard for 2012-2016 is 35.5 mpg by 2016.

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