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California Lawmakers Blast Trump's Move To Roll Back Car Pollution Standards

A pre-Clean Air Act panoramic view of a smoggy day in downtown L.A., as seen from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on October 11, 1967. (Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection)
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On Wednesday, President Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency to reexamine the fuel economy targets that had been central to President Obama's climate change plan, angering California lawmakers.

The fuel economy standards in question, which were put forth in 2012 and finalized earlier this year, set ambitious standards for the number of miles cars and trucks must average per gallon. The Obama-era regulations would have required automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, according to the New York Times, who report that the "rules have been widely praised by environmentalists and energy economists for reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and its greenhouse pollution." Today's announcement does not change existing regulations; it just opens the door for it.

California Governor Jerry Brown, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon blasted Trump's decision in a press release Wednesday, calling it "a cynical ploy by the Trump administration and auto manufacturers to roll back vehicle pollution standards."

The L.A. Times reports that Trump's decision "puts the White House on a path toward a direct and costly confrontation with California." Under the Clean Air Act, California basically has the equivalent of special privileges, where the state can set their own tougher standards for auto emissions (Congress gave us a waiver way back in 1970, which we may now be in danger of losing). Vox reports that it's "wildly unclear" whether courts would even allow the federal government to rescind that waiver, although the New York Times reported earlier this month that the EPA plans to try to do just that.

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The Washington Post reports that automakers will likely continue producing more fuel efficient cars as long as that waiver remains in place, since California accounts for the nation's largest auto market. The California standards are now used by at least a dozen states, according to ABC News.

“California’s pioneering efforts to reduce emissions from cars and trucks have become a national example, and have been supported by past Administrations both Republican and Democratic,” de León said in a press release. “Our policies have helped deploy more efficient cars and new technologies, saving consumers billions of dollars in fuel costs and more in adverse health and environmental impacts. Today’s action will only hold back innovation to favor a couple of industries and will further choke the air out of our children’s lungs.”

The state filed a motion late Tuesday to intervene in a lawsuit that automakers had filed against the EPA (the automakers' lawsuit challenges the feasibility of the 2022-25 vehicle fuel pollution standards). If the state's motion is granted, California will be able to defend the federal regulations in court, and attempt to prevent efforts to undo the 2022-25 standards. Guess California will see you in court.