Administration today kicks off showdown with California over emissions

James Marshall
September 19, 2019

President Donald Trump says his latest move to roll back California's state-level vehicle regulations is going to make cars cheaper and help automakers.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced to vehicle manufacturers on Tuesday that the Trump administration would reduce the regulatory burden on auto production by using a preemption waiver.

California is using the latter to address greenhouse gas emissions too, which the Supreme Court has recognized as a pollutant qualified for regulation. "Automakers should seize this opportunity because without this alternative to California, you will be out of business", posted Trump on Twitter.

The Trump administration's plan would also be a blow to the Trudeau Liberals' climate-change agenda, and poses a challenge to whatever party forms the next Canadian government.

But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., one of seven Republicans in the state's 53-member U.S. House delegation, said he agreed that it does not make sense to have a separate California and federal standard for tailpipe emissions.

Asked if Californians should take the Trump administration's sudden interest in the issue as honest given the friction between the state and the president, Carson said things work best when all levels of government can work together with advocates, nonprofits and faith-based organizations and advocacy groups.

"We embrace federalism and the role of the states, but federalism does not mean that one state can dictate standards for the nation", Wheeler said, adding that higher fuel economy standards would hurt consumers by increasing the average sticker price of new cars and requiring automakers to produce more electric vehicles. In 1977, other states were allowed to adopt California's stricter standards. A dozen states and the District of Columbia also follow California's fuel economy standards.Word of the pending announcement came as Trump traveled to California on Tuesday for an overnight trip that includes GOP fundraising events near San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

In July, under the waiver system, California conducted secret negotiations with Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW of North America pledged to produce fleets that meet a standard of 50 miles per U.S. gallon (4.7 litres per 100km), against the current 37 mpg level, by 2026.

"This is the fight of a lifetime for us", said Mary Nichols, a senior air quality regulator in California, at a press conference with California's governor and attorney general in Sacramento on Wednesday. Indications are that the Trump EPA is now caught in the middle of balking automakers, decisions that are hard to justify scientifically (and thus in court), and the hard-line deregulatory stance of administration officials.

Americans will spend more on gassing up less efficient vehicles than they will save if new vehicle prices are kept down, California officials said.

"California won't ever wait for permission from Washington to protect the health and safety of children and families", said Newsom, a Democrat.

But in a statement released Wednesday, Healey said "the Trump Administration's attack on the California waiver is an illegal assault on states' rights, clean air, and the climate that will cost drivers billions more at the pump". Predictable emissions and fuel economy standards are vital for automakers because as they plan production and model offerings several years in the future.

"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", said California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein.

For Trump, that all smells like weakness, and he wants little to do with a "loser", Dan Shapiro, a former US ambassador to Israel, tells The Washington Post.

It's just appalling to see the administration try to stop a state with lingering smog problems and ambitious greenhouse-gas targets from reducing tailpipe emissions. As with many Obama-era environmental accomplishments, that agreement has been targeted by the Trump administration.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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