Trump to revoke California’s auto air emissions authority

US President Donald Trump announced on Sept. 18 that his administration will revoke California’s federal authority allowing it to set its own automobile emissions limits.

US President Donald Trump announced on Sept. 18 that his administration will revoke California’s federal authority allowing it to set its own automobile emissions limits. The action would remove federal permission that the state received under the 1963 Clean Air Act to establish and enforce its own motor vehicle emissions limits because of its unique air quality conditions.

Trump said in an online tweet that he was taking the action “to produce far less expensive cars for the consumer, while at the same time making the cars substantially SAFER,” adding, “This will lead to more production because of this pricing and safety advantage, and also due to the fact that older, highly polluting cars, will be replaced by new, extremely environmentally friendly cars.”

Trump predicted there would be “very little difference in emissions between the California Standard and the new US Standard, but the cars will be far safer and much less expensive.” He added, “Many more cars will be produced under the new and uniform standard, meaning significantly more JOBS, JOBS, JOBS! Automakers should seize this opportunity because without this alternative to California, you will be out of business.”

Federal and California Democrats immediately criticized the action. “California won’t ever wait for permission from Washington to protect the health and safety of children and families,” Gov. Gavin Newsome said. “It’s a move that could have devastating consequences for our kids’ health and the air we breathe, if California were to roll over. But we will not—we will fight this latest attempt and defend our clean car standards. California, global markets, and Mother Nature will prevail.”

‘This is about survival’

“In California, we can’t afford to backslide to the days of dirty air and unregulated emissions. For us, this is about survival. Our communities are screaming for help to address the new normal of devastating droughts and superstorms, wildfires, and mudslides,” Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra said.

“For the first time in its 50-year history, the US Environmental Protection Agency is trying to stop states from taking reasonable actions to cut smog,” said California Air Resources Board Chair Mary D. Nichols. “Shame on the Trump Administration for putting the health of millions of its citizens at risk for absolutely no reason.”

The state’s two US senators, who are Democrats, also expressed alarm. “The president’s decision to end California’s authority to set higher vehicle emission standards is bad for California and it’s bad for the country,” Dianne Feinstein said.

Kamala D. Harris, meanwhile, asserted, “Let’s be perfectly clear: This was not a decision based in scientific fact or made in the best interest of our nation’s future. The current administration has put a target on California’s back and sought only to score political points by attacking our state.”

US House Democrat leaders also blasted Trump’s maneuver. “President Trump and the EPA have no authority to revoke California’s right to enact strong, effective auto pollution standards designed to protect the health of our communities and save hard-working families money,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said.

“This move threatens to sabotage our fight against climate change, worsen air quality conditions across the country, force consumers to pay for less efficient cars, and throw the automotive industry into uncertainty and chaos,” Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone Jr. (NJ) stated. “It is yet more evidence that this administration is guided by the president’s unrelenting incompetence and malfeasance. We deserve better.”

100 waivers in 50 years

Becerra noted that in the last 50 years, EPA has granted California 100 waivers for California standards. Thanks to those standards, the state has reduced emissions by hundreds of thousands of tons annually, encouraged the development of emission controls technologies, and contributed to stronger federal standards, he said.

California, through CARB, adopted its comprehensive Advanced Clean Car Program in 2012 for the 2017-25 model years, Becerra said. The program combines the control of smog-causing pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions into a single coordinated package of standards. The rules save California drivers money at the pump, reduce air pollution, and curb greenhouse gases, he said.

EPA granted California a waiver in 2013 for the program, the state’s attorney general said. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia follow at least a portion of California’s ACCP, he said.

Other congressional Democrats strongly questioned Trump’s announced intention. “For two years now, automakers have told me repeatedly that they wanted to see a deal between the administration and the state of California, a 50-state solution that would provide near-term flexibility as the industry moves toward stronger standards,” said Sen. Thomas R. Carper (Del.), the ranking minority member on the Environment and Public Works Committee. “Based on those numerous meetings and conversations, I am confident that no automaker wanted this outcome. In fact, it’s the exact outcome they sought to avoid.”

Three House Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee jointly applauded Trump’s announcement. “For too long, California’s policies have forced consumers across the country to pay more for vehicles. The administration’s move to establish uniform standards for fuel economy is the right decision,” said Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.), the committee’s ranking minority member; Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee’s top Republican; and John Shimkus (Ill.), the Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee’s ranking minority member.

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