Calif. es­ca­lates fight with Trump over ve­hi­cle rules

Merced Sun-Star (Saturday) - - News - BY LIAM DIL­LON

Cal­i­for­nia of­fi­cials upped the ante Fri­day in their fight with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump over ve­hi­cle fuel econ­omy stan­dards, urg­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion to with­draw its pro­posal to weaken fed­eral rules and elim­i­nate the state’s abil­ity to set its own green­house gas emis­sion guide­lines.

“This is high-stakes poker that’s be­ing played by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment,” said Cal­i­for­nia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Xavier Be­cerra, along­side Gov. Jerry Brown and Cal­i­for­nia Air Re­sources Board Chair­woman Mary Nichols, at a news con­fer­ence over­look­ing In­ter­state 5 in Sacra­mento. “It’s not just the is­sue of cli­mate change that’s in the bal­ance. It’s also the health of the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

Be­cerra and 20 other state at­tor­neys gen­eral across the coun­try filed for­mal writ­ten com­ments in a let­ter Fri­day to the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency and Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion. The let­ter was in re­sponse to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s Au­gust pro­posal to freeze fed­eral ve­hi­cle mileage tar­gets and end Cal­i­for­nia’s au­ton­omy to im­ple­ment more strin­gent rules.

The let­ter con­tends that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan “presents a sig­nif­i­cant threat to the health and safety of our cit­i­zens and our en­vi­ron­ment,” and is il­le­gal un­der the fed­eral Clean Air Act. Rather than change the pro­posal, the coali­tion of states is ask­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion to scrap it en­tirely.

Cur­rent Obama-era fed­eral fuel econ­omy stan­dards call for the na­tion’s cars and trucks to av­er­age more than 50 miles per gal­lon by 2025. Cal­i­for­nia also has author­ity to re­quire au­tomak­ers to sell a spec­i­fied num­ber of elec­tric ve­hi­cles, a cru­cial step in the state’s ef­forts to meet its goals to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions by 40 per­cent be­low 1990 lev­els by 2030.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion plan would in­stead freeze ve­hi­cle mileage tar­gets in 2020 for six years at around 37 miles per gal­lon and re­voke Cal­i­for­nia’s abil­ity to set its own ve­hi­cle emis­sions stan­dards, which 13 other states now fol­low.

En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency of­fi­cials have con­ceded the pro­posal would lead to fewer emis­sions re­duc­tions, but ar­gue that it would not im­prove ve­hi­cle and high­way safety. The agency has also said Cal­i­for­nia’s decades-long author­ity to im­ple­ment emis­sions rules stronger than those set by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment isn’t jus­ti­fied be­cause green­house gases and cli­mate change don’t af­fect the state dif­fer­ently than any­where else in the coun­try.

“It is my hope that we can con­tinue to work to­gether and reach one na­tional stan­dard that will get more Amer­i­cans into newer, cleaner and safer ve­hi­cles,” Act­ing EPA Ad­min­is­tra­tor An­drew Wheeler said in a state­ment re­spond­ing to Cal­i­for­nia’s let­ter.

But state of­fi­cials, who had been in dis­cus­sions with Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials be­fore the pro­posal was is­sued in Au­gust, said there was no point in mak­ing a coun­terof­fer.

“Since our start­ing point is that the ex­ist­ing rule should stand, and theirs is to in­sist on zero progress, there is no room for a coun­ter­pro­posal and we will not be pre­sent­ing one,” Nichols said.

The state’s ac­tions Fri­day re­flect a con­tin­ued hard line against Trump’s ef­forts to weaken the fuel econ­omy rules and do away with Cal­i­for­nia’s au­ton­omy un­der the Clean Air Act.

BEN MAR­GOT AP file

Ve­hi­cles make their way west­bound on In­ter­state 80 across the San Fran­cisco-Oak­land Bay Bridge in De­cem­ber 2015. Cal­i­for­nia of­fi­cials on Fri­day blasted the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan to freeze ve­hi­cle emis­sions stan­dards.

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