Gabbing on Gas: White House and California Still On Speaking Terms


fuel gauge vintage

Despite the growing animosity, both California and the Trump administration are still willing to discuss the country’s changing emission regulations. The state is currently heading a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency, claiming it “acted arbitrarily and capriciously” in overturning the previous administration’s decision to maintain Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards.

While the proposals issued by the current administration will eventually see those targets rolled back, a final decision has not been made. The White House claims it wants to maintain an open dialogue with the Golden State, hoping to reach an agreeable solution, but the California Air Resources Board has argued it doesn’t seem to be acting on those assertions. Meanwhile, EPA head Scott Pruitt maintains that the state will not dictate federal fueling rules as automakers beg the government to do everything in its power to ensure a singular national mandate.

It’s an ugly situation, which makes news of a new round of meetings all the more surprising. 

The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, part of the Office of Management and Budget, will meet separately with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the California Air Resources Board. According to Reuters, these interactions are scheduled to take place next Tuesday.

During the meetings, the automotive alliance will likely press for lowered targets while claiming a cohesive national standard is the most important outcome. While many manufacturers have come out publicly to support sticking with the existing environmental standards, business is still business. Having the flexibility to make cars less efficient for the American market in the coming years is something they’d all be pleased with. But they can’t do that if California and a handful of other states adhere to different standards.

What’s less clear is what the California Air Resources Board will ask for. While the group has shown a willingness to bend in the past, the most recent draft of the Transportation Department’s proposal recommends freezing fueling requirements at 2020 levels through 2026 and barring California from setting stricter standards than the federal government. It may pursue an all-or-nothing approach and hope it can fight to maintain its waiver to self regulate if it can’t negotiate a good deal.