May 30, 2018 / 7:29 PM / 6 months ago

U.S. scraps rule requiring states to measure tailpipe gases

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Transportation Department is repealing a rule, finalized in the closing days of the Obama administration as part of the fight against global warming, requiring states to track greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles on the nation’s highways.

Cars travel north towards Los Angeles on Interstate highway 5 in San Diego, California February 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake

In a notice posted Wednesday in the Federal Register, the Federal Highway Administration, which is part of the Transportation Department, said it was repealing the rule. The repeal becomes effective at the end of June.

A coalition of states in 2017, including California, Massachusetts, Iowa and Washington, had sued to force the Trump administration to continue to enforce the rule, which they agreed to do, pending a formal process to rescind it.

The administration said it was reversing the Obama rule because it “imposed costs with no predictable level of benefits.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council had said the rule was a “common-sense tool to curb carbon pollution from transportation.” The group said the administration should work with “planners nationwide to clean up the air, protect our health and provide smarter transportation options for Americans such as more public transit, bikeways and pedestrian walkways.”

Under the Obama rule, roughly 400 state transportation departments and metropolitan planning organizations were required to track the annual number of tons of carbon dioxide emitted from on-road vehicles traveling on the national highway system and assess traffic congestion — with initial reports due by October 2018.

The move was aimed at states considering greenhouse gas emissions as it used federal funds for highway improvements.

States were also directed to set two or four-year emissions-reduction targets, although no binding emissions targets were set under the rule.

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association on Wednesday praised the decision. The group had raised concerns about the system and “what exactly it will measure and how it will measure it.”

The transportation sector accounted for just over a third of all U.S. carbon emissions in 2016. The Trump administration plans to recommend in the coming weeks freezing vehicle greenhouse gas emission requirements at 2020 levels through 2026, a proposal that has drawn outrage from Democrats and environmental groups. [nL1N1S41Z2]

President Donald Trump, who has called climate change a hoax, in June 2017 said the United States would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. The United States, under former President Barack Obama, had pledged as part of the Paris accord to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025 to help slow global warming.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Tom Brown

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