Fuel economy standards would be frozen until 2026 under reported proposal.
Photo: Mark Humphrey (AP)

California and the U.S. government are barreling toward a legal battle, after reports emerged that President Donald Trump’s administration will propose revoking the state’s ability to set its own standards for car emissions and fuel economy. Fuel economy targets would also reportedly be frozen until 2026, under the plan.

The Los Angeles Times, citing unnamed federal officials who’ve reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal, reported the agency’s plan would “freeze fuel economy targets at the levels required for vehicles sold in 2020, and leave those targets in place through 2026.”

And under the plan, California’s longstanding waiver under the Clean Air Act to set its own, more aggressive standards for emissions, the Times reports. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt hinted this was coming earlier this month, when he said: “Cooperative federalism doesn’t mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country.”

Here’s more from the Times:

The EPA plan would freeze fuel economy targets at the levels required for vehicles sold in 2020, and leave those targets in place through 2026, according to federal officials who have reviewed the plan. That would mark a dramatic retreat from the existing law, which aimed to get the nation’s fleet of cars and light trucks to an average fuel economy of 55 miles per gallon by 2025.

The EPA plan remains a draft, and White House officials could decide to back away from a direct fight with California and like-minded states.

EPA spokesperson Liz Bowman declined to comment on the details of the draft plan, which the agency is writing together with the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency.

“The Agency is continuing to work with NHTSA to develop a joint proposed rule and is looking forward to the interagency process,” she wrote in an email.

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If this moves forward, there’s surely going to be challenged in court. California’s Air Resources Board has been adamant that it won’t let the state’s waiver be revoked without a fight, which could go on for years.

And it could cause issues for automakers. As we reported earlier this month, California sets standards that 12 other states follow and comprise 40 percent of the total auto market. The industry could wind up having to deal with a patchwork of rules across the U.S., something almost certainly primed to be a major headache.