Trump administration ends emissions negotiations with CARB

February 22, 2019

Tyson Fisher


Critical of California’s vehicle emissions standards, President Donald Trump’s administration planned on holding negotiations with the California Air Resources Board regarding a proposed federal rule called Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rules. On Thursday, the White House announced that those discussions are off the table.

In a surprise move on Thursday, Feb. 21, the Trump administration said it is no longer going to attempt negotiations with CARB regarding fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks. The administration has expressed plans to unravel the Obama-era standards.

The announcement comes as Trump’s administration moves forward with a proposed rule for a revised national standard for model years 2021-26 cars and light trucks. Published in the Federal Register last August, the SAFE Vehicle rules would amend certain existing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions for passenger vehicles.

If passed, model 2021 standards will be revised and model years 2022-26 will have completely new standards.

“Despite the administration’s best efforts to reach a common-sense solution, it is time to acknowledge that CARB has failed to put forward a productive alternative since the SAFE Vehicles Rule was proposed,” the White House said in a statement.

California is ready to take the matter to the courts.

“Abandoning ship on the U.S.’s serious push to tackle pollution is another sign of impotence and fallibility, something Americans aren’t accustomed to,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “California and states throughout America are prepared to defend our national Clean Car Standards even if the Trump administration intends to go AWOL.”

Rules put in place by President Barack Obama will nearly double the national fuel economy standards by 2025. In addition to scrapping those rules after 2021, the Trump administration said it also will contest California’s – and other states that followed – right to establish its own rules.

Currently, CAFE standards are set for a minimum of 51.3 mpg for passenger cars by model year 2025. Under Trump’s proposed changes, that standard drops to 43.7 mpg for model year 2020 cars, where it stays the same through at least 2026. In terms of carbon dioxide emissions, Obama’s plan will reduce car emissions to 143 grams per mile for model year 2025 cars, compared with 225 grams per mile for model year 2016 cars. Trump’s proposal sets the reduction to 204 grams per mile.

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to withdrawal the January 2013 waiver of the Clean Air Act preemption for California’s Advanced Clean Car program, Zero Emissions Vehicle mandate and Greenhouse Gas standards that are applicable to model years 2021 through 2025. The EPA claims those standards “are technologically infeasible in that they provide insufficient lead time to permit the development of necessary technology, giving appropriate consideration to compliance costs.”

Essentially, the Trump administration is claiming its revised version of CAFE standards will save billions of dollars. In manufacturer regulatory costs alone through model year 2029 vehicles, the savings is expected to be more than $250 billion. More than $500 billion in societal costs is estimated, as well as a $2,340 reduction in overall average vehicle ownership costs for new vehicles.


Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.