15 governors warn against tough fuel economy rules
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The Obama administration needs to ensure it doesn't set fuel economy standards for the 2017-2025 model years that are too aggressive, a group of governors wrote in a letter to the administration today.
The governors -- 14 Republicans and one Democrat -- said in a letter to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson that "overreaching regulations can place a significant cost burden on individuals, families and businesses in our states."
The governors' letter came after a group of former Republican EPA administrators, governors and members of Congress wrote to President Barack Obama last week asking the administration to pursue "aggressive" fuel economy standards for the 2017-25 model years.
The group, which included EPA administrators who worked for every Republican president since Richard Nixon, said a 6 percent annual increase in fuel economy standards by automakers would be "achievable and cost-effective."
In today's letter, the governors wrote that new fuel economy standards should allow consumers to drive vehicles that fit their lifestyles, as "Americans need a range of vehicles to meet their family and business needs."
The new fuel economy standards also should avoid raising vehicle prices beyond buyers' means, the governors wrote.
"If fuel economy standards increase too quickly, resulting in more expensive vehicles, many consumers can be expected to hold on to their older vehicles longer and defer buying a new car, which could put auto jobs across the country at risk and delay compliance with federal air quality standards."
If fuel economy standards were increased to 62 mpg by the 2025 model year, vehicle prices would increase to a sum that would exceed the amount consumers save in fuel costs over a five-year period, according to a Center for Automotive Research study released this month.
Last week The White House met individually with representatives from the Detroit 3 to ask the automakers to analyze the impact of a 56.2 mpg fuel economy average by 2025. That would require a 5 percent annual increase in fleetwide averages starting in 2016, when 35.5 mpg will be the mandatory fuel economy standard.
The administration plans to present its proposal to the Office of Management and Budget by the end of July, The Detroit News reported Tuesday.
The EPA and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration plan to publish a proposed regulation by September 30 and finalize the proposal by July 2012. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear was the only Democrat to sign today's letter.
"We will announce when we have collected the data and finished our discussions on a standard for 2017 and beyond," Secretary LaHood said today during an appearance at a General Motors plant in Flint, Mich. "I'm not prepared to do that today, but we're working on it."
In 2009, the Obama administration raised CAFE standards, requiring automakers to boost the average fuel efficiency of their vehicles to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.
The Republican governors signing the letter were: Robert Bentley, Alabama; Butch Otter, Idaho; Mitch Daniels, Indiana; Terry Branstad, Iowa; Sam Brownback, Kansas; Paul LePage, Maine; Rick Snyder, Michigan; Haley Barbour, Mississippi; Brian Sandoval, Nevada; John Kasich, Ohio; Nikki Haley, South Carolina; Bill Haslam, Tennessee; Gary Herbert, Utah; and Robert McDonnell Virginia.
An EPA spokeswoman declined to comment. Department of Transportation spokeswoman Olivia Alair said in a statement that the department is taking a wide array opinions into consideration.
"We continue to work closely with a broad range of stakeholders to develop an important standard that will save families money and keep the jobs of the future here," Alair said.
"A final decision has not been made, and as we have made clear we plan to propose a standard in September."
Neil Roland contributed to this report.
You can reach Joseph Lichterman at email@example.com.