Ford, UAW voice opposition to Trump plan to freeze fuel economy standards

Government officials at the Tuesday hearing included Bill Wehrum of the EPA and Heidi King, deputy administrator of NHTSA. Photo credit: Mike Wayland

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. and the UAW were among the major automotive organizations to oppose a rollback of national fuel economy standards during a public hearing Tuesday with federal officials.

The automaker and labor union said a proposed freeze of the Obama administration’s 2017-25 fuel economy standards at 2020 levels could be detrimental to the American automotive industry and the environment.

“Let me be clear: We do not support standing still,” said Bob Holycross, Ford global director, Sustainability & Vehicle Environmental Matters, during a joint hearing in Dearborn, Mich., between NHTSA and the EPA. “Clean-car standards should increase year over year, with the inclusion of provisions that promote ongoing investment in technology that will further drive greenhouse-gas reductions.”

Supporters of the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule have argued the current standards do not address today’s auto market of lower gas prices, shift to utility vehicles and low adoption of alternative vehicles.

Holycross and Jennifer Kelly, a research director at the UAW, who called fuel efficiency the “auto industry’s future,” were among the more than 150 people expected to speak at the hearing, which is anticipated to continue until at least 7 p.m.

Stephen Bartoli, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles vice president – global fuel economy and GHG emissions, voiced support for modernizing, not freezing, the standards — similar to comments from General Motors and other industry trade groups.

GM, which is not anticipated to speak at the hearing, is expected to submit written comments on the proposal before an Oct. 26 deadline.

GM CEO Mary Barra has voiced support for “modernizing” the standards.

The EPA and NHTSA last month proposed freezing Obama-era fuel efficiency standards at 2020 levels instead of requiring graduated increases through 2025 for a fleetwide average of about 47 mpg.

Automakers triggered the proposal by asking President Donald Trump to revisit the EPA’s ruling that the standards agreed to by the federal government, the State of California and automakers in 2011 remained achievable.

Automakers consistently have supported one industry standard to assist in commonality across vehicles. They argue there are higher costs trying to sell cars tailored to two different markets.

Other speakers at the hearing included public officials, local and national environmental groups, auto suppliers and academic scholars.

The hearing is one of three scheduled by the EPA and NHTSA this week. The first took place Monday in Fresno, Calif. The third is set for Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

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