In the Vehicle Emission Standards War, It’s California 1, Trump 0

Donald Trump’s hyperbole about making America great again has been shot down in flames this week. First, it was a failure to muster enough votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Then, on Friday, the California Air Resources Board announced that it would hold firm to the same vehicle emission standards it had agreed to adopt in 2012 through to the year 2025. California will also accelerate alternative fuel powertrains from around three percent now to about fifteen percent by 2025. These sources will include batteries, fuel cells, and plug-in hybrids.

Emission requirements generally determine the fuel efficiency of cars sold in the U.S. Trump has vowed to lessen vehicle emission standards regulations in order to stimulate the U.S. automotive industry. On behalf of the Trump administration, Scott Pruitt has stated that the EPA will review California’s right to enforce stricter emissions standards than those promulgated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The standoff injects more vitriol into the larger national conversation about whether the Trump administration will retreat from its climate change denier position or continue to bail on the U.S. and stand firm as a leader of a corporatocracy.

vehicle emission standards

Reuters quotes a White House official as saying, “We are disappointed that California has chosen to refuse our good-faith offer to work together with all relevant stakeholders on this important matter.” Under a provision in the Clean Air Act, California has the autonomy to decide its own vehicle emission standards.

Governor Jerry Brown and other California state legislators have vowed to lead the call for Trump to awaken to his responsibility to help reduce anthropogenic impacts on the earth. Over the past 25 years, the State of California has demonstrated national and international leadership in understanding regional climate change impacts, developing strategies for
reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and developing knowledge to support adaptation to projected impacts. Officials there stand behind their goals for vehicle emission standards, as they say research points to reductions in the country’s oil consumption by 12 billion barrels and by six billion metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution over the life of a vehicle.

California has already sued one administration, that of George W. Bush, after it challenged California’s waiver in 2007. The Obama administration, which had sought to create one national vehicle emission standard that would apply to all 50 states, reversed W’s federal challenge. Today, several other states have the same greenhouse gas regulations as does California: Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia. Together, that group of states comprises the largest vehicle market in the U.S., as it speaks for 130 million residents and about one-third of the entire U.S. auto market.

According to the New York Times, Governor Brown has declared that California will continue to work toward its legally required target of reducing carbon emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Moreover, the state has retained Eric H. Holder Jr., the former United States attorney general, to advise on potential legal fights with the Trump administration.

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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn grew up in Stafford Springs, CT, home of the half-mile tar racetrack. She's an avid Formula One fan (this year's trip to the Monza race was memorable). With a Ph.D. from URI, she draws upon digital media literacy and learning to spread the word about sustainability issues. Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook and Google+