Expert Voices

Automakers struggle to head off the California–EPA legal battle

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt during a Cabinet meeting May 9, 2018, in the Cabinet Room of the White House.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt during a Cabinet meeting on May 9, 2018, at the White House. Photo: Al Drago-Pool via Getty Images

The Trump administration sent its proposed revisions of automotive fuel-economy standards to its budget office last week, the final step before public rollout. A key effort to address climate change, this Obama-era regulatory plan would greatly reduce car and light-truck greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2025, while the Trump administration seeks to freeze standards after 2020.

What to watch: The freeze would spark a legal battle with California, which wants to maintain the Obama-era standards. Automakers publicly say they don't want this fight, but they set the stage by investing in groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute, whose Myron Ebell headed the Trump EPA transition, and asking the transition team to reconsider the standards two days after the election. Now, they might look for California to make concessions before it enters the risky litigation process.