On Wednesday the Trump administration will revoke California’s authority to set emissions rules stricter than federal standards, setting up a likely court battle between the state and the President – who has increasingly taken a front line and adversarial view toward the state.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that lawyers believe this will take the administration “into uncharted legal territory in its battle with the state.”
“This is unprecedented and a tremendously big deal,” said Richard L. Revesz, a professor of environmental law at New York University, noting that no administration has ever revoked a state’s authority to regulate its own air quality in the past.
In a speech on Tuesday, Andrew Wheeler, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said, “We embrace federalism and the role of the states, but federalism does not mean that one state can dictate standards for the nation.”
Both the governor and attorney general of California vowed to fight back.
California’s Advanced Clean Cars rule requires automakers to produce cars that pollute less and emit fewer greenhouse gases through model year 2025.
“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. 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,” the governor said.
He concluded, “The President could learn from California. Instead, reports today suggest that his Administration will act on a political vendetta by announcing they intend to end aspects of our clean car 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. California, global markets, and Mother Nature will prevail.”
“While the White House clings to the past, automakers and American families embrace cleaner cars,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “The evidence is irrefutable: today’s clean car standards are achievable, science-based, and a boon for hardworking American families and public health. It’s time to remove your blinders, President Trump, and acknowledge that the only person standing in the way of progress is you. You have no basis and no authority to pull this waiver. We’re ready to fight for a future that you seem unable to comprehend; we’ll see you in court if you stand in our way.”
“It’s clearly a big slap at California,” said Ann Carlson, a professor of environmental law at UCLA. “It does make you wonder whether there’s a motivation here that’s political rather than legal.”
Dan Becker, director of the Washington-based Safe Climate Campaign, said, “Trump has married his administration-wide hostility to the environment to his personal vendetta against California.”
In a statement from Congresswoman Doris Matsui, who represents Sacramento in Congress and is a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and author of the Clean and Efficient Cars Act, she said, “From day one, this Administration made it clear that California’s waiver authority granted under the Clean Air Act was enemy number one, and they have spitefully acted to do everything in their power to end this critical protection for California, twelve other states, and the District of Columbia.
“We all deserve clean air to breathe, but unfortunately the Trump White House would rather lower air standards and increase rates of sickness in all fifty states,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “Make no mistake; the California waiver creates jobs, saves consumers money at the pump, and keeps families healthier. Revoking our waiver erodes those goals and cedes U.S. leadership in auto manufacturing, and I believe we are better than that.”
She added, “I am currently exploring all options, including legislation, to block the EPA’s rule and I will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to protect California and ensure the United States is a leader on climate change and in auto manufacturing for decades to come.”
California is not alone impacted by this. Thirteen other states and the District of Columbia “have adopted and currently benefit from California air quality and fuel economy standards” and could potentially join California in litigation that is likely to be decided by the US Supreme Court.
—David M. Greenwald reporting