WASHINGTON -- Concerns are growing in the auto industry that California is developing 2017-25 fuel economy standards outside a national framework, potentially jeopardizing future car sales and raising companies' compliance costs.
However, a look at California Air Resources Board statements suggests that the state's intent is less definite and unilateral than characterized in the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers' letter to key congressmen on Tuesday.
The letter said California has “indicated” it would “finalize” 2017-25 tailpipe emissions standards for cars and light trucks early this year, more than a year ahead of plans for a U.S. rule.
“A single state cannot appropriately or adequately consider the consequences of its actions on critical national interests such as jobs, the economy, costs to consumers, motor vehicle safety or consumer acceptance,” the alliance's Jan. 11 letter said.
The alliance, which represents the Detroit 3, Toyota and eight other automakers, also said that “a patchwork” of state and federal rules would increase companies' compliance costs.
The letter was sent to Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He has asked an array of U.S. businesses for their concerns about federal regulations.
A copy also was sent to Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
A CARB spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Alliance spokeswoman Gloria Bergquist, asked by Automotive News to support the lobby's claims about California's intent, sent comments by California regulatory staff at an Oct. 21 board hearing.
Tom Cackette, CARB's chief deputy executive officer, said at the hearing that the staff plans to present a proposal for 2017-25 greenhouse gas standards to the board early this year.
He didn't say whether or when the California board would approve the plan. Cackette also said California regulators would look at the final U.S. rule in 2012.
“At that point, we'll see whether the results are close enough that once again, we can bring to the board a proposal to say let's let the national standards govern,” Cackette said.
Bergquist did not immediately respond to a question asking about the apparent differences between the California regulator's statements and the lobby's characterization.
In October, the Obama administration issued a preliminary proposal to require automakers to increase the corporate average fuel economy of cars and lights trucks to between 47 mpg and 62 mpg by the 2025 model year.
The EPA and Transportation Department have said they plan to approve a rule by the summer of 2012 after consultation with California and other states, automakers and environmental groups.
Automakers are moving toward a 35.5 mpg fleetwide average by 2016 as a result of a comprehensive agreement with the federal government, state regulators and environmental groups.