President Donald Trump declared in a Tweet today that his administration plans to revoke California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to set its own vehicle emission standards.
Under the CAA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets national standards for vehicle tailpipe emissions of certain pollutants. Through a CAA waiver granted by the EPA, California can impose stricter standards for vehicle emissions of certain pollutants than federal requirements, and other states can adopt the standards.
The EPA and U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are in the process of rolling back federal clean car standards through the new SAFE Vehicles Rule, a move opposed by California and and many environmental groups. Gov. Jerry Brown, California’s governor when the SAFE Vehicles Rule was proposed, vowed that the state would “fight this stupidity in every conceivable way possible.”
Explaining the reasoning behind revoking California’s waiver, Trump said on Twitter that the move will “produce far less expensive cars for the consumer,” as well as make them “substantially safer.”
“There will be very little difference in emissions between the California standard and the new U.S. standard, but the cars will be far safer and much less expensive,” he said, adding that “many more cars will be produced under the new and uniform standard,” leading to the creation of more jobs.
“Automakers should seize this opportunity because without this alternative to California, you will be out of business,” he said.
California’s Advanced Clean Cars rule requires automakers to produce cars that pollute less and emit fewer greenhouse gases through model year 2025, a press release from Gov. Gavin Newsom, D-Calif., explains. In July, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) agreed on a voluntary framework with Ford, Honda, BMW of North America and Volkswagen Group of America that they said could serve as an alternative path for the nationwide standards. In response, earlier this month, the EPA and DOT claimed the agreement was “inconsistent with federal law.”
In response to Trump’s latest announcement, Newsom says in a statement that California “won’t ever wait for permission from Washington to protect the health and safety of children and families.”
“While the White House has abdicated its responsibility to the rest of the world on cutting emissions and fighting global warming, California has stepped up,” Newsom says. “In July, we came to landmark voluntary agreements with four major automakers to reduce vehicle emissions and oppose Washington’s rollback of clean air standards. We are showing it can be done.”
Newsom argues that the administration is “act[ing] on a political vendetta” by planning to revoke the state’s waiver.
“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,” he adds. “California, global markets and Mother Nature will prevail.”
The Sierra Club says the EPA’s revocation of California’s waiver would have wide-reaching implications; it would affect the population in 14 states plus D.C. that have adopted these stronger restrictions on pollution from cars, as well as 11 states that have adopted California’s Zero Emission Vehicle standards.
“Donald Trump is committing an unprecedented and illegal attack on the Clean Air Act that will increase pollution in our communities and steal money from people’s wallets,” states Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “This move is nothing more than pure vindictiveness from an administration set on giving Big Oil a polluting pass at the expense of our climate and the well-being of American families.
“For four decades, the Clean Air Act has granted states the right to protect their residents from dangerous air pollution caused by transportation. Trump’s actions will not go unchecked. The Sierra Club will challenge this indefensible attack in court and hold this administration accountable.”
Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general, calls the president’s move a “desperate plan to rob our state of its long-standing authority to set vehicle emissions standards.”
“In California, we can’t afford to backslide to the days of dirty air and unregulated emissions,” Becerra says. “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. Unlike the Trump administration, we won’t run scared from global warming. And when you endanger our people, our economy or our planet, we rise with the full force of the law behind us.”
Mary D. Nichols, CARB’s chair, adds, “For the first time in its 50-year history, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is trying to stop states from taking reasonable actions to cut smog. Shame on the Trump administration for putting the health of millions of its citizens at risk for absolutely no reason.”