Trump to block states from setting tougher emission standards for cars

parked cars
(Nevada Current file photo)
parked cars
(Nevada Current file photo)

WASHINGTON — President Trump declared Wednesday that he’s revoking California’s ability to set tougher greenhouse gas standards for automobiles, a move his critics say will harm industry and hinder nationwide efforts to combat climate change. 

“The Trump Administration is revoking California’s Federal Waiver on emissions in order to produce far less expensive cars for the consumer, while at the same time making the cars substantially SAFER,” Trump wrote on Twitter. 

California is allowed to seek waivers under the Clean Air Act to set its own air pollution standards for cars and trucks. In 2009, the Obama administration granted the state a waiver to set stricter greenhouse gas standards after the George W. Bush administration had rejected California’s request. Other states can adopt California’s tougher rules. 

Some Nevada lawmakers, perhaps most notably Democratic Assemblyman Howard Watts, have called for Nevada to emulate California’s auto emission standards, the nation’s toughest, as well as California’s mandate to increase sales of zero-emission vehicles.

Trump’s tweet comes as the administration moves to weaken greenhouse gas emission standards for cars that were also put in place by the Obama administration. Both moves are certain to face legal challenges. 

“Bizarrely, the Trump team is barreling ahead to revoke California’s ability to set emission standards — over the objections of the automakers themselves, who see themselves caught in multi-car pile-up in the nation’s courts,” wrote David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This will not end well, for the car makers or the administration.”

Several major automakers reached a deal with California earlier this year to increase fuel efficiency beyond the Trump administration’s proposal. 

Blocking California from enacting tougher rules would have broad impacts throughout the country. Thirteen other states and the District of Columbia follow California’s tougher standards. The states are: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) wrote on Twitter, “The Trump Administration is preparing to announce its desperate plan to rob our state of its long-standing authority to set vehicle emissions standards. To those who claim to support states’ rights: don’t trample on ours.”

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler spoke Tuesday to the National Automobile Dealers Association, where he said, “One national standard will provide much-needed regulatory certainty to auto makers, dealers, and consumers.”

More details about the administration’s plans are expected to be unveiled Thursday when Wheeler and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao have said they’ll make a policy announcement at EPA headquarters in Washington.

Robin Bravender
Robin Bravender was the States Newsroom Washington Bureau Chief from January 2019 until June 2020. She coordinated the network’s national coverage and reported on states’ congressional delegations, federal agencies, the White House and the federal courts. Prior to that, Robin was an editor and reporter at E&E News, a reporter at Politico, and a freelance producer for Reuters TV.


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