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The Wall Street Journal: White House may drop effort to freeze emissions targets for new cars

The Trump administration is backing away from a plan to freeze tailpipe-emissions targets for new vehicles through 2025, say people familiar with the process.

The administration is now considering requiring a 1.5% annual increase in fleetwide fuel efficiency, using an industry measure that takes both gas mileage and emissions reductions into account, the people said. That number is closer to the Obama-era rules calling for 5% gains but still provides auto makers with significant relief and would allow cars to emit more pollution.

The new final number for annual increases could change, as the rules remain under review, one of these people said. In addition, the administration’s number is expected to be challenged in court by California and other states, which favor tougher regulations.

President Trump has been trying for years to soften a set of stringent targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions first agreed to in 2012 by the Obama administration, California and much of the automobile industry. The move to 1.5% — expected to be announced by year’s end — comes after intense industry lobbying, which opposed the Trump administration’s original plan to freeze targets at 2019 levels, around 37 miles per gallon.

The process has cleaved an auto industry traditionally united on emissions policy, with some companies siding with California and some with the White House over who should set the standards and what they should be. California’s Air Resources Board said that a 1.5% annual increase wouldn’t be enough for the state to meet federal air quality standards.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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