The Trump administration is expected to begin rolling back stringent federal regulations on vehicle pollution that contributes to global warming, marking a U-turn to efforts to force the American auto industry to produce more electric cars, a media report said.
The announcement – which is expected as soon as Tuesday next week and will be made jointly by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt and Transportation Secretary Elaine L Chao – will immediately start to undo one of former President Barack Obama's most significant environmental legacies, the New York Times reported on Friday.
Trump is also expected to direct Pruitt to begin the process of dismantling the Clean Power Plan, Obama's rules to cut planet-warming pollution from coal-fired power plants.
The regulatory rollback on vehicle pollution will relax restrictions on tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide and will not require action by Congress. It will also have a major effect on the United States auto industry, the daily said.
Under the Obama administration's vehicle fuel economy standards, American automakers were locked into nearly a decade of trying to design and build ever more sophisticated fuel-efficient vehicles, including electric and hybrid models.
The EPA will also begin legal proceedings to revoke a waiver for California that was allowing the state to enforce the tougher tailpipe standards for its drivers, the New York Times reported.
On February 21, a coalition of the 17 largest companies that sell cars in the US sent two letters to Pruitt, asking him to revisit the tailpipe rules.
They complained about the steep technical challenge posed by the stringent standard, noting that only about 3.5 per cent of new vehicles are able to reach it.
That even excludes some hybrid cars, plug-in electric cars and fuel cell vehicles, the automakers wrote.
The automakers estimated their industry would have to spend a "staggering" $200 billion between 2012 and 2025 to comply and said the tailpipe emissions rule was far more expensive for the industry than enforcing the Clean Power Plan.
Former Obama administration officials and environmentalists denounced Trump's expected announcement.
"The rest of the world is moving forward with electric cars. If the Trump administration goes backward, the U.S. won't be able to compete globally," said Margo T. Oge, a former senior EPA official.
The tailpipe pollution regulations were among Obama's major initiatives to reduce global warming and were put forth jointly by the EPA and the Transportation Department.
They would have forced automakers to build passenger cars that achieve an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, compared with about 36 miles per gallon today.