Up­ton pushes to ‘ har­mo­nize’ fed­eral emis­sions stan­dards

Bill would give car­mak­ers credit for past mpg progress

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY KEITH LAING Detroit News Wash­ing­ton Bu­reau klaing@de­troit­news.com (202) 662-8735 Twit­ter: @Kei­th_Laing klaing@de­troit­news.com (202) 662-8735 Twit­ter: @Kei­th_Laing

Wash­ing­ton — U.S. Rep. Fred Up­ton, R-St. Joseph, has in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion that would al­low au­tomak­ers to ap­ply cred­its for gas mileage im­prove­ments from model years as far back as 2009 to help com­ply with emis­sion rules that re­quire them to pro­duce car and truck fleets that av­er­age more than 50 miles per gal­lon by 2025.

Up­ton said mak­ing the change, a pri­or­ity of U.S. au­tomak­ers, would “har­mo­nize” fed­eral emis­sion stan­dards by ad­dress­ing con­flicts in ex­ist­ing rules that are en­forced by the Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion and the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency. En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and con­sumer ad­vo­cates ar­gue the mea­sure would weaken U.S. gas mileage rules by al­low­ing au­tomak­ers to get credit for pre­vi­ously achieved mileage im­prove­ments.

The mea­sure is co-spon­sored by U.S. Rep. Deb­bie Din­gell, DDear­born.

“The high cost of the cur­rent con­flict­ing reg­u­la­tory re­quire­ments au­tomak­ers are fac­ing drives up man­u­fac­tur­ing ex­penses, which are then passed along to con­sumers,” Up­ton said in a state­ment.

The mea­sure, known as the Fuel Econ­omy Har­mo­niza­tion Act, would al­low au­tomak­ers to ap­ply cred­its for auto pol­lu­tion re­duc­tion earned af­ter the 2009 model year to help meet fed­eral emis­sion stan­dards for the model years between 2016 and 2025. A sim­i­lar bill was in­tro­duced in the U.S. Sen­ate by U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

The rules for 2021 and beyond are be­ing re­viewed by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, which has hinted it will roll them back.

Back­ers of the “har­mo­niza­tion” bills say the mea­sures ad­dress long-stand­ing con­flicts between NHTSA’s Cor­po­rate Av­er­age Fuel Econ­omy (CAFE) pro­gram and the EPA’s Green­house Gas emis­sions pro­grams, which the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced in 2009 would be man­aged as one pro­gram. Un­der the cur­rent rules, the EPA has greater author­ity to fine au­tomak­ers than the trans­porta­tion depart­ment.

Au­tomak­ers have com­plained the har­mo­niza­tion has been far from a smooth process.

“To­day, there are still sep­a­rate reg­u­la­tory pro­grams, cre­ated un­der sep­a­rate statutes, man­aged by sep­a­rate reg­u­la­tory agen­cies. As a re­sult, the me­chan­ics of the pro­grams dif­fer,” the Wash­ing­ton, D.C.-based Al­liance for Au­to­mo­bile Man­u­fac­tur­ers, which lob­bies for ma­jor au­tomak­ers, said in a state­ment. “Au­tomak­ers could com­ply with re­quire­ments un­der the EPA pro­gram and still face fines from NHTSA for the same prod­uct port­fo­lio be­cause of the dif­fer­ent struc­ture of the CAFE pro­gram.”

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and con­sumer ad­vo­cacy groups have com­plained that the so-called har­mo­niza­tion mea­sures are an ef­fort to weaken fuel econ­omy stan­dards that au­tomak­ers agreed to in 2012.

“This bill is the lat­est salvo by the au­tomak­ers in their quest to roll back suc­cess­ful clean car stan­dards,” Rhea Suh, pres­i­dent of the Nat­u­ral Re­sources De­fense Coun­cil, said in a state­ment. “It pro­vides wind­falls and con­ces­sions that would weaken the stan­dards, mak­ing cars less fuel ef­fi­cient and cre­at­ing more air pol­lu­tion in Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties.”

Shan­non Baker-Branstet­ter, se­nior pol­icy coun­sel for Con­sumers Union, said, “This bill de­liv­ers a wind­fall to au­tomak­ers at the ex­pense of con­sumers who would end up pay­ing more at the pump. Amer­i­cans who de­pend on larger ve­hi­cles and trucks for work or fam­ily needs would suf­fer most.” quire­ment to as much as 90 per­cent of au­tos to be made with parts that orig­i­nated in the three coun­tries in or­der to re­ceive the ex­emp­tion, or boost the per­cent­age that has to come di­rectly from the U.S.

On the cam­paign trail, Trump said he would end the trade pact with Canada and Mex­ico and slap a10 per­cent to 35 per­cent tar­iff on ve­hi­cles and parts made in Mex­ico that are im­ported into the U.S. if NAFTA rene­go­ti­a­tion is not a suc­cess. Crit­ics have said that could add $5,000 to $15,000 to the price of a car.

The part sup­plier group said Thurs­day that U.S. au­tomak­ers would be at a dis­ad­van­tage if they face higher tar­iffs than their coun­ter­parts in other coun­tries out­side of North Amer­ica do.

“Other au­to­mo­tive pow­er­houses in the de­vel­oped world such as Ger­many and Ja­pan also have com­plex and in­te­grated sup­ply chains sim­i­lar to the US, with ac­cess to low cost pro­duc­tion,” the group said. “Ger­many and Ja­pan coun­tries are able to achieve a pos­i­tive trade bal­ance in ve­hi­cles as well as parts driven mainly by fo­cus on spe­cial­iza­tion and abil­ity to keep OEMs in the coun­try, lead­ing part sup­pli­ers to stay.”

Charles Dharapak / AP

Rep. Fred Up­ton said the high cost of con­flict­ing re­quire­ments drives up man­u­fac­tur­ing ex­penses, which are passed to con­sumers.

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