Calif. doesn’t rule out emission standards talks with Trump

Source: Debra Kahn, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, April 24, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO — The Trump administration has not reached out to California to negotiate vehicle emissions standards, a top state official said yesterday, though she did not rule out the possibility of such talks taking place.

Mary Nichols, the head of California’s Air Resources Board (ARB), said the White House hadn’t been in touch yet. “We haven’t been asked,” she said at a carbon markets conference.

Under pressure from automakers, President Trump has vowed to review federal vehicle emissions standards for 2025 to ensure they are not hurting manufacturing jobs, reversing an Obama-era decision to keep them in place through 2025. California, which has an exemption from the Clean Air Act allowing it to set its own standards, is moving ahead with the Obama rule, along with 12 other states that have signed on to its rules.

Automakers earlier this month had said the Trump administration might seek to broker an agreement on emissions standards with California to avoid a patchwork of rules. The looming showdown could mean uncertainty for the auto industry, which has already invested in technologies to reach the 2025 targets, which would push cars and light-duty trucks to reach 50.8 mpg (Greenwire, April 12).

ARB voted last month to keep its standards in place through 2025.

“When California agreed to accept the federal regulations as being the equivalent of ours, we retained the ability to enforce our own standards,” Nichols said. “And so we have indicated that we intend to continue on that path.”

She added that the decision to harmonize with the federal standards was made under former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) in 2009, and that any decision to deviate from the standards would require Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) review.

“The decision to accept the federal standards was based on a very careful review of what the federal program was going to be, and a technical evaluation of whether it would in fact achieve equivalent results in terms of the environmental benefits of the program,” she said. “That was carried on under a previous governor. I would expect our governor to be no less rigorous in evaluating any possibility of a change to the federal program as being acceptable for California.”