California says Trump’s fuel standards plan will ‘forfeit our best chance to fight climate change’

Source: By Dino Grandoni, Washington Post • Posted: Monday, October 29, 2018

California is coming out swinging in its official response to one of the Trump administration’s most consequential attempts at rolling back regulations to date — to freeze fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks through 2026.

In a 400-page comment on the proposed rule that will be filed today to the federal government, the California Air Resources Board warns that proposal will worsen air quality and “forfeit our best chance to fight climate change.” That’s according to a report by The Post’s Brady Dennis and Michael Laris.

The Trump administration’s plan seeks to take away from California its long-standing legal ability to set its own pollution standards for cars. That tool has proved key to California cleaning up the air in its smoggy cities.

During the Obama administration, the federal government and California agreed to be on the same page and craft a uniform set of standards. That meant car manufactures did not have to produce automobiles under two regulatory regimes. Along with the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which was meant to rein in climate-warming emissions from coal-fire power, the fuel-economy standards for cars were one of President Obama’s main efforts to halt the nation’s contributions to climate change.

In response, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency did something unexpected under Trump: They, unlike the president himself, acknowledged climate change is happening. But they argued that since the world is already on track to warm by seven degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, there was little the federal government could — or should —  do to curb the release of greenhouse gases today.

California officials call the Trump administration’s way of thinking “a nihilistic and fatalistic view that future generations will necessarily be subject to a climate in which human civilization as it currently exists is impossible.”

“It is also illegal,” state officials say in the filing. They point to a 2007 Supreme Court decision that ultimately compelled the federal government to address climate change.

In an interview with The Post on Thursday, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) added that Trump’s “profoundly misguided and dangerous” proposal would harm the car industry and consumers.

The state’s senior senator, Dianne Feinstein (D), also challenged the legality of the Trump administration’s argument that California’s authority is preempted by another law, which was last amended in 2007.

“As elected officials who were deeply involved in the negotiation” of that amendment, “we can attest to Congress’ intent that California’s authority under the Clean Air Act be preserved,” Feinstein and two other Senate Democrats, Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts and Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, wrote in a letter to EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.