EPA Assistant Administrator Bill Wehrum emphasized the agency’s preference for a single national policy on fuel efficiency standards, adding that he hoped to work with California to create a single standard. The assistant administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation was the government keynote speaker on Media Day, Jan. 25, at the 2018 Washington Auto Show (WAS).
“Having one national program is really, really important,” Wehrum said. And “it’s important that our decision be based on technical merits.”
He also talked about the importance of consumer choice. “I think consumers should decide what they want to drive,” Wehrum said. “I don’t think the government should decide for them.”
Wehrum addressed the question on everyone’s mind, the midterm review of fuel efficiency standards, but very generally. The Obama administration EPA approved the current schedule for the standards –a fleetwide average of 51.4 mpg by 2025 – just before leaving office, more than a year ahead of the deadline. Current EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced several months ago that he would reopen the midterm review.
The deadline originally set for the midterm review is April 1, 2018, and Wehrum said the EPA would meet it. When the EPA reopened the review, it received a slew of new comments, which Wehrum said the agency is in the middle of reviewing. NADA and automakers have pressed the Trump administration for a delay in the standards to reflect the shifting consumer preference for SUVs and light trucks.
California has long had a waiver from the national standard so it could create more stringent standards, originally deemed necessary because of its severe pollution. There has been some talk in the media that the EPA could exempt California from its waiver, requiring the state to align with the national standard.
Asked about that in the Q&A, Wehrum reiterated his earlier position. “I have no interest whatsoever in withdrawing California’s ability to create its own fuel efficiency standards,” he said. Just the same, “I think we should have one national standard.”
WANADA CEO John O’Donnell, who had been reading questions from the audience, wrapped up the session by saying that though he could not speak for the OEMs, he was sure they did not want a patchwork of different state rules.Download Bulletin PDF