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EPA signals new fuel economy, emissions regulations won't mirror proposal

It sounds like they're going to be more stringent than originally planned.

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Orlando Sentinel/Getty Images

The Trump administration still plans to roll back fuel economy and emissions regulations put in place under the Obama administration, but they likely won't be as relaxed as first imagined.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said during a news conference Tuesday that the administration hasn't made a final decision, Bloomberg reports. He dropped one curious line, however: "It's safe to say our final will not look exactly like the way we proposed it."

The original proposal, which came out last year, looked to freeze fuel economy and emissions goals at 2020 levels. As it stands, the current Obama-era regulations will see fuel economy rise each year through 2026 to 46.7 miles per gallon across a vehicle fleet. Under the Trump administration's proposed plan, the mpg figure stops at 37 mpg across a vehicle fleet.

Although automakers long lobbied to reverse the Obama-era rules, many oppose the all-out halting of fuel economy improvements. The Trump administration has said the proposed standards reflect market realities and will keep vehicles more affordable. Meanwhile, the administration has also acknowledged CO2 emissions will increase through 2035 with the proposed plan.

Wheeler also commented on the proposed effort to take away California's waiver, which allows the state to set more stringent greenhouse gas regulations (and stricter rules for automakers). Although a report last week claimed the new regulations will strip the waiver process from California, the EPA chief merely said the administration is still looking at the possibility. He added it's "certainly an option," according to Bloomberg.

Without the waiver, the US would follow one national fuel economy standard. Today, over a dozen states follow California regulations, and the state all but requires zero-emission vehicles for sale in the state for automakers to do business. Effectively, critics have panned the two-tier fuel economy standard and argued it leads to "compliance cars" for various markets.

In an effort to combat any changes the Trump administration makes, California and four major automakers agreed to voluntary regulations that are higher than the revised proposal, but slightly more lenient than the current Obama-era ones. That agreement, however, has since led to a federal antitrust case into each participating automaker: BMW, Ford, Honda and Volkswagen.

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