Thursday, June 02, 2011

The (auto) empire strikes back! With help from NHTSA

an excerpt from Politico Pro (subscription required for the whole piece)

Automakers, Obama on collision course

Two years after a federal bailout saved Detroit from a complete collapse, U.S. automakers are trying to put the brakes on President Barack Obama’s hopes of raising fuel economy standards for cars and light-duty trucks to as high as 62 miles per gallon by 2025.

Auto industry officials are pressing everyone from White House chief of staff Bill Daley to House Speaker John Boehner and California Gov. Jerry Brown in a late lobbying blitz to make sure they don't get the short end of the stick....

Industry officials say they are also concerned California will abandon the negotiations and assert its long-standing authority under the Clean Air Act to pursue stronger limits than the federal government. Brown, elected in November, has a history of fighting with Detroit from his first stint as governor more than 30 years ago in Sacramento. On top of that, another 13 states — representing about half the country's car-buying public — have shown they are willing to join California in petitioning the EPA for a waiver that allows them to go beyond the federal limits....

For years, NHTSA held exclusive authority to address fuel economy by updating the need for CAFE limits every five years. But it lost some of its footing with the Supreme Court's 2007 ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA, which allowed EPA to regulate for greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.
Obama in 2009 was able to get EPA and NHTSA to combine their forces working on one fuel economy package. But that goodwill has apparently waned, with NHTSA now trying to overrule both the EPA and California on which cost estimate studies should be accepted, as well as how many votes each party gets as they submit a final recommendation to the White House.

"NHTSA is being a very nasty player," one source close to the talks said. "They're up to their old tricks, scamming for the auto industry. It's not a pleasant process in which everyone is playing nicely."

Officials at the EPA and NHTSA did not address specific questions about the internal debate. Both issued statements suggesting they're working together on regulations that will save consumers money, reduce foreign oil dependence and curb greenhouse gas emissions.

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