The Trump administration is cracking down on California’s car pollution standards. On Wednesday, Sept. 18, President Trump announced at the Washington Environmental Protection Agency that he will be revoking California’s authority to set stricter vehicle emission rules than the federal government.
This emissions policy is one of California’s signature environmental rules, as tailpipe pollution is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. California also has the largest auto market in the country.
This news came as a shock to the state, considering the amount of pollution occurring in major cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. Of the country’s ten most polluted metropolitan areas, seven are in California.
The Obama-era tailpipe pollution rules required automakers to build vehicles that achieved an average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. This requirement aimed to cut about six billion tons of carbon dioxide pollution over the lifetimes of those vehicles. President Trump is proposing to lower that number to 37 miles per gallon.
California’s right to set their own tailpipe rules dates back to Nixon and the Clean Air Act of 1970. The state has historically set stronger pollution standards than the federal government, and those standards have had a national impact. Thirteen other states follow California’s tailpipe standards.
Richard L. Revesz, a professor of environmental law at NYU explained that this action by the Trump Administration “is unprecedented and a tremendously big deal” as no administration has ever revoked a state’s authority to regulate its own air quality in the past.
California leaders are not happy about Trump’s plans. California’s Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, expressed in a Sacramento news conference that “We cannot afford to backslide in our battle against climate change.”
The formal plan to revoke California’s authority in regards to setting their own standards has caused the state, along with 22 other states and three major cities, to file a lawsuit in federal court in D.C. on Friday the 20th that challenged Trump’s decision to revoke the waiver. This is the 60th lawsuit that California has filed against the Trump Administration.
California argues that the state is facing intense pollution problems and this action by the president is a step backwards in that issue. The New York Times stated that this action takes the administration into “uncharted legal territory in its battle with the state.” California plans to take this battle all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.
The plan to revoke California’s say in vehicle emissions is part of President Trump’s efforts to roll back vehicle emission standards put in place by Obama. Trump argues that holding automakers to a lower standard will help keep upfront costs of cars down and encourage people to buy new cars and replace older, dirtier cars.
He also believes that the change will lead to increased auto production and new “Jobs, jobs, jobs.” California’s fuel economy standards could end up applying to the country as a whole. If some states adhere to stricter emission standards, it could end up splitting the auto market in the United States.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao explained at a news conference last week that the reason for the new emission rules are because “the state’s regulations made new cars unaffordable.”
This roll back of California’s emissions policy is part of an array of efforts to weaken climate change regulations by President Trump, who has expressed skepticism about scientific consensus that global warming is human caused in the past.
The administration has talked of plans to weaken auto emission standards nationwide, roll back certain rules concerning coal-burning plants, and ease restrictions on leaks of methane at energy companies.
The news of a Trump’s intentions concerning California vehicle emissions comes weeks after Volkswagen, Ford, BMW, and Honda announced a deal with the state to make upcoming car fleets cleaner in the coming years.
President Trump’s rollback of California’s vehicle emission rules has stirred up more conflict concerning pollution, and the conflict could lead to numerous legal battles in the future.