Moving forcefully against Obama-era environmental rules, President Donald Trump is set to announce in Michigan plans to re-examine federal requirements that regulate the fuel efficiency of new cars and trucks.
Trump is expected to reveal his plans during an appearance Wednesday at the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where he'll challenge emissions targets that were a centerpiece of former President Barack Obama's strategy to combat global warming. The rollback underscores the Trump administration's rejection of mainstream climate science in an effort to boost economic growth.
The center, about 30 miles west of Detroit, produced B-24 bombers during World War II and is being converted into an automotive testing and product development center. During his visit, Trump is expected to meet with auto executives and workers and discuss "how his plans for rolling back federal red tape will lead to more American jobs and higher wages, specifically in the automobile sector," press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters.
The EPA under Obama had promulgated a rule for cars and trucks requiring a fleet-wide average of 36 mpg in real-world driving by 2025.
The president will travel later Wednesday to Nashville, Tennessee, where he'll lay a wreath at President Andrew Jackson's tomb to mark what would have been Jackson's 250th birthday, before holding a campaign-style rally in the city.
The president arrived in Michigan accompanied by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, several top White House aides and Tennessee Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.
Trump's most significant move of the day will likely be his announcement on the fuel-economy targets. While it will have no immediate effect, the move is expected to set the stage for weaker fuel efficiency standards as well as drawn-out legal battles with environmental groups and states such as California that have adopted their own tough tailpipe standards for drivers.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers - which represents a dozen major car manufacturers including General Motors, Ford, Fiat Chrysler and Toyota - praised Trump's action. It said he was creating an opportunity for federal and state officials to "reach a thoughtful and coordinated outcome predicated on the best and most current data."
Environmental groups said Trump and his team appeared intent on easing gas-mileage requirements set by Obama.
"If they succeed we'll pay more at the pump, depend more on oil from bad countries, drive up the trade deficit and pollute our kids' atmosphere," said Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign.
As a practical matter, Trump's announcement will target the Obama administration's January decision to lock in strict gas mileage requirements for cars and light trucks, ending a review process before the Democrat left office.
Back in 2012, the Obama administration set fuel-economy regulations for model years 2017-2025 and agreed to complete a midterm evaluation by 2018. But seven days before Obama left office, the EPA decided to keep the stringent requirements it had set in place for model years 2022 to 2025. The industry balked at the decision, insisting it was rushed through to beat the change in administrations.
Trump will announce that he's putting that midterm review back on track, so officials can spend another year studying the issue before setting new standards in 2018.
While the administration has not said explicitly it wants to weaken the standards, a senior White House official said the Obama-era EPA had ignored reams of data cited by the automotive industry. The official spoke on condition of anonymity at a White House briefing in order to outline the action, despite the president's criticism of the use of un-named sources.
The Auto Alliance last month urged EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to relax the standards, saying they will drive up car costs, price customers out of the market and depress the industry. Obama's EPA had argued the costs to consumers were mitigated by gas savings and that the rules would decrease greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.
Trump campaigned on eliminating "job killing" regulations, and the administration is expected to take additional steps in the coming days to roll back environmental regulations.
Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the change "makes no sense."
"Mileage standards save consumers money at the gas pump, make Americans less dependent on oil, reduce carbon pollution and advance innovation," she said.
In Nashville, Trump will be given a private tour of Jackson's home, according to Howard Kittell, president and CEO of the Hermitage mansion. Jackson has enjoyed something of a resurgence thanks to Trump. During the campaign, some of Trump's aides took to comparing him to the former president - a fellow populist outsider who took on a member of the Washington establishment and ran a campaign railing against corrupt elites.
Trump mused during his first days in Washington that "there hasn't been anything like this since Andrew Jackson" and hung a portrait of Jackson in the Oval Office.
Historians had been souring on the slave-owning president whose Indian Removal Act of 1830 commissioned the forced removal of Native Americans from their ancestral homelands. More than 4,000 died during their journeys west.