The Trump administration proposed a freeze on fuel-efficiency standards after 2020.
"For too long, bureaucrats in Washington and California have used Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations to dictate to automakers what cars to make, limiting consumer options, raising prices, and putting vehicle ownership, especially new auto ownership, out of reach for many Americans", she said.
The administration billed the rollback it announced on Thursday, which would also revoke California's authority to set its own strict vehicle emissions rules, as a way to lower auto prices for consumers.
Taken together, the proposal is an aggressive move to dismantle what some environmentalists have hailed as one of the most potent efforts anywhere in the world to combat climate change. President Trump should be commended for standing up for American consumers by reducing the regulatory burden placed unnecessarily on automakers. The EPA and DOT will now give the public 60 days to provide comment and feedback on the rules before they are potentially introduced as law.
But private transportation experts say there are so many factors involved that the 1,000 lives saved figure is questionable.
Transport has become the largest sector source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., as cheap fuel has encouraged Americans to buy larger vehicles such as SUVs.
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Some say the latest environmental views to be voiced by the administration are yet more attempts to turn the Obama administration's policies on their head, and support big business at the same time. CAFE standards have failed on every front. "We're going to help the companies, and they're going to help you".
The proposal argues that forcing automakers to reach a fleet-wide average of 51.4 miles per gallon by 2025, as the Obama administration required, would make vehicles more expensive and encourage people to stick to driving older, less-safe cars and trucks.
Representatives of the US auto industry praised the administration's proposal, even as some automakers privately have expressed unease at the prospect of abrupt changes in fuel standards and having to meet different standards in different states. They called the plan illegal, saying it would force motorists to pay more for gas and create more air pollution.
California Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday called the Trump administration proposals "an assault on the health of Americans everywhere".
"The clean vehicle standards are already saving our families billions at the pump, supporting almost 300,000 American jobs, and cleaning up unsafe tailpipe pollution", said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
"Current estimates indicate that the proposed SAFE Vehicles Rule would save over 500 billion dollars in societal costs and reduce highway fatalities by 12,700 lives (over the lifetimes of vehicles through [model year] 2029)", the agencies state. California, 16 states and the District of Columbia have already filed a lawsuit that challenges the plan's scientific underpinnings.