By on September 25, 2019

With California gearing up for a legal battle against federal regulators eager to revoke its fuel waiver, we knew it wouldn’t be long before another salvo was launched in the gas war. However, the latest skirmish is a bit personal. According to Automotive News, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler issued a letter to to California Air Resource Board chief Mary Nichols on Tuesday that framed the Golden State as unfit to dictate U.S. environmental policy.

The letter claims California has “the worst air quality in the United States” and a backlog of implementation plans to address ambient pollution standards surpassing every other state in the union.

California is scheduled to receive over $4 billion in annual federal highway funding this October. Now, the EPA is claiming the state failed to enforce the U.S. Clean Air Act. As a result, the Trump administration is threatening to withdraw those funds if the region doesn’t take immediately action on 130 different state implementation plans.   (Read More…)

By on September 10, 2019

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler weighed in on the gas war this week, issuing some firm language on the matter during a visit to Chattanooga, Tennessee. His words were softer upon returning to Washington, where he reminded everyone that the EPA has made no formal decisions on the matter and suggested there could still be room for compromise.

Unfortunately, locating that happy middle ground has been a bit of a problem. Despite the fuel economy rollback’s status as a proposal, hard lines have been drawn in the sand between the Trump administration and California’s regulatory bodies. The Golden State’s compromise was to delay the Obama-era targets by one year. California also recruited municipalities, U.S. states, and automotive manufacturers to pledge their support of the plan, resulting in a handful of carmakers finding themselves on the business end of an antitrust probe.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s compromise has been nonexistent. Wheeler’s words suggest that might be because everyone is still making up their minds… but not before he gently razzed the West Coast for being shortsighted an singleminded.  (Read More…)

By on July 9, 2019

On Tuesday, 23 governors signed a joint statement urging the Trump administration to reconsider the proposed rollback of Obama-era fueling regulations. Led, unsurprisingly, by California Governor Gavin Newsom, the letter suggests a “common-sense approach” to national requirements with an emphasis on rising standards.

A minor update in the gas war to be certain — and yet annoyingly framed by a large portion of the media as a victory for California when the realities are far more complicated. To be frank, we’re getting pretty tired of these lopsided takes. This whole thing is a regulatory and political quagmire… on all sides.  (Read More…)

By on March 7, 2019

The Environmental Protection Agency released its annual assessment of new vehicles yesterday, and it was filled with good news. On average, fuel economy continues to improve. Cars are not getting heavier, horsepower keeps going up, and every major manufacturer managed was in compliance with greenhouse gas standards through the 2017 model year. However, the EPA also said it’s concerned that manufacturers frequently tap into stored-up regulatory credits to make this possible.

“Most large manufacturers used banked credits, along with technology improvements, to maintain compliance in model year 2017. Three large manufacturers achieved compliance based on the emission performance of their vehicles, without utilizing additional banked credits,” the agency explained.

The ability to bank credits by over-complying in a given year is seen by some environmental groups as a way for corporations to shirk their responsibility to the planet. But EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s concerns regarding the system rest elsewhere.  (Read More…)

By on January 18, 2019

As previously reported, vehicle certifications have been suspended during the current government shutdown. While this is normally a non-issue, the extended length of this federal deferment is starting to spook automakers.

Fiat Chrysler has already bemoaned the situation, as it’s currently waiting for the Environmental Protection Agency to approve its Ram Heavy Duty pickups. While the situation hasn’t become truly dire, other automakers have begun expressing concerns of their own.  (Read More…)

By on January 15, 2019

2019 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty Longhorn Mega Cab (left), Power Wagon (center) and 3500 Heavy Duty Limited Crew Cab Dually (right)

Unless you’re employed by Uncle Sam, you may not have noticed the current government shutdown impacting your life by any meaningful margin. That, of course, has not kept the media from spending the entire month scaremongering and trying to place blame (Spoiler: It’s everyone’s fault, as these shutdowns happen anytime Congress has to agree on a new budget, and partisan politics keeps them from working toward any cooperative solutions).

While this is the longest partial shutdown of the U.S. government in modern history (take that, 1996), it hasn’t been quite as terrifying as the internet or television would lead you to believe. However, we’re starting to get a little uneasy at this point — because it looks like the situation could delay the launch of the Ram Heavy Duty we’ve prattled on about for the past two days(Read More…)

By on January 10, 2019

President Donald Trump nominated Andrew Wheeler as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday, setting him up to permanently fill a position he’s already occupied since July.

Trump praised Wheeler in November his “fantastic job” as acting administrator of the EPA following the July 2018 resignation of the agency’s former scandal-ridden head, Scott Pruitt. This month, the president submitted Wheeler’s formal nomination to the Senate. There’s still a ways to go before the ex-lobbyist’s confirmation, though, as the Senate will no doubt be critical of his relatively recent ties to the coal industry. (Read More…)

By on October 25, 2018

California and 18 other states plan to formally vent their grievances over the Trump administration’s proposal to freeze fuel economy standards at 2020 levels on Friday. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have called for public comments on the matter, with the deadline taking place at the end of this week. Apparently, California wants its voice to be the last one heard.

“They are grossly derelict in not trying to move the dial forward in cleaning the air and the environment,” California’s attorney general Xavier Becerra said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. “The situation continues to get worse and requires action now, and not for us to stand pat.”  (Read More…)

By on October 5, 2018

California is considering a formal, public counter-proposal to the Trump administration’s proposed rollback of the existing fuel economy requirements for passenger vehicles. Gearing up for the launch, the state has requested that automakers present detailed information on their future products and explain why they’re seeking relief from fueling mandates they previously agreed to adhere to.

“They’ve never submitted to us any information that would back up those claims in any detail to help us craft a solution,” Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, (CARB), said in a Thursday interview with Bloomberg(Read More…)

By on October 1, 2018

traffic

California regulators voted on Friday to mandate an adherence to Obama-era federal vehicle emissions standards for cars sold in the state, regardless of Trump administration efforts to weaken the standards. It’s the latest salvo in a war between the Golden State and the current administration, which aims to strip California of its ability to self regulate its automotive emission rules and roll back the corporate average fuel economy for the entire country.

However, the Trump team doesn’t appear to be completely ignoring the environment. In a 500-page environmental impact statement from the NHTSA on the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Year 2021–2026, numerous inclusions acknowledge the existence of climate change. But the takeaway from the report is that the NHTSA doesn’t seem to feel that passenger vehicles will make much of a difference.  (Read More…)

By on August 30, 2018

fuel gauge vintage

Considering that the Trump administration’s Safer and Affordable Fuel Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles proposal specifically calls for the revocation of California’s power to set its own emissions rules, it’s miraculous that the Golden State is still willing to discuss the issue. But here we are.

Administration officials and members of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) emerged from a meeting on Wednesday, saying they were working toward resolving their differences over vehicle emissions, interested in establishing a single national standard, and — get this — would be happy to meet again.  (Read More…)

By on August 20, 2018

Staff at the Environmental Protection Agency had major disagreements over the decision to rollback corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for the coming years, according to documents released last week. The matter echoes an event in May where science advisers for the EPA claimed the agency had ignored its own research in order to rationalize the push to relax fuel targets.

Both items have given ammunition to critics of the new proposal to claim the choice was politically motivated and based upon shoddy, biased research. Interesting, considering that’s exactly what the current administration said about the earlier decision to make them more stringent.

Led by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and backed by EPA, the current proposal seeks to keep fuel economy standards at 2020 levels — rather than continuing to elevate them. The arguments made for the move revolved around existing consumer preferences and saving lives. However, some of the agency’s staff seemed to be concerned with the NHTSA’s data and claimed it had overstepped by including the EPA in documents it didn’t approve of.  (Read More…)

By on August 7, 2018

fairfax line assembly factory general motors, Image: General Motors

President Donald Trump was obsessed with U.S. employment long before being sworn in as Commander-in-chief. In fact, the jobs rhetoric played a major role in swaying traditionally democratic voters in states like Michigan. The promise of manufacturing positions, the kind of work American used to be known for, was too tempting for some living in the Rust Belt to ignore.

“We’re going to work on the CAFE standards so you can make cars in America again,” he told Detroit’s auto workers in March 2017, referencing the Corporate Average Fuel Economy. “We’re going to help the companies, and they’re going to help you.”

Those fuel economy rollbacks are now fast approaching, after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Environmental Protection Agency released their official proposal last week. But will it truly help bolster employment rates in the United States? The answer depends largely upon who you ask. (Read More…)

By on August 2, 2018

After months of discussion, circulating drafts, and arguing with the State of California, the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration formally unveiled their plan to rewrite the existing corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) rules and replace them with something far less stringent.

The proposal would freeze the presiding standards in 2020 under the “Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks” plan, which is a mouthful.

It also moves to revoke California’s authority to set its own mandates, as predicted. The Golden State made it clear that it wants to maintain the Obama-era limits. However, the proposal includes a section emphasizing the importance of a single national standard, saying it would seek to withdraw the waiver granted to California in 2013.

“Attempting to solve climate change, even in part, through the Section 209 waiver provision is fundamentally different from that section’s original purpose of addressing smog-related air quality problems,” reads the proposal. “When California was merely trying to solve its air quality issues, there was a relatively-straightforward technology solution to the problems, implementation of which did not affect how consumers lived and drove.” (Read More…)

By on July 27, 2018

The new acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, has jackknifed former EPA head Scott Pruitt’s decision to quit enforcing the strict sales limits imposed on glider trucks.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, they’re basically new heavy commercial trucks that use old powertrains. Advocates argue that using refurbished engines and transmissions save business owners loads of cash and promote recycling, since the internals would likely end up in a scrapyard. However, many complain that glider trucks simply exist to circumvent emissions regulations.

During President Obama’s tenure, the EPA said that if gliders were allowed through 2025, they would make up a scant five percent of the freight vehicles on the road — but would account for one third of all nitrogen oxides and particulate emissions from the heavy truck fleet. A crackdown was inevitable. (Read More…)

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