How Trump will go after California’s auto GHG authority

Source: By Kelsey Tamborrino, Politico • Posted: Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Trump administration plans to argue that California does not have the authority to enforce stringent greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars, despite the Obama administration’s 2009 waiver, according to a source familiar with a forthcoming proposed regulation. The draft, which is a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration document but also names EPA, includes eight regulatory options for future CAFE standards. The preferred option would freeze the standards at model year 2020 levels through at least model year 2026 vehicles, erasing some of the biggest climate-related policies of the Obama administration, according to the source.

As part of that freeze, the document goes after California’s authority to enforce its own more stringent regulations within its borders and in a dozen other states that follow its rules. The proposal argues that the 1975 law that created NHTSA’s CAFE program, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, preempts the states from creating their own fuel economy standards, and that should include the California GHG standards. The argument has been around for a long time; automakers pushed it before the Obama-era deal setting one national standard, and conservative groups last month urged EPA to adopt it now. But it’s not clear that it could withstand judicial scrutiny. Two federal courts rejected the preemption argument in 2007, noting that GHG and fuel economy standards do overlap but are different. It’s not clear whether the Trump administration ultimately will propose or finalize this preferred option, and the plan still must go through White House review.

Their two cents: Mary Nichols, the chair of California’s Air Resources Board, took to Twitter on Friday to poke EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt about his Thursday testimony about negotiations with California on the auto rules. “Hey @EPAScottPruitt, I agree it’s important we work together ‘diligently & diplomatically’ to maintain one national program for #cleanercars so like, call me maybe?” she tweeted, referencing the 2012 Carly Rae Jepsen earworm. (If you need to clear that ditty from your head, might ME suggest anything from Janelle Monáe‘s new album?)

GOP California Rep. Ken Calvert , who oversees EPA funding atop a House Appropriations subcommittee, also responded to the notion EPA is poised to challenge his state’s waiver late Friday: “Like many Californians from across the political spectrum, I support our state’s long-standing waiver and I have shared my views with Administrator Pruitt on many occasions,” he said in a statement to ME. “I believe there needs to be more conversations between EPA and California officials to address any concerns with the California waiver and discuss how to find balance for all stakeholders. I plan on doing my part in the coming days and weeks to facilitate that discussion.” Calvert asked Pruitt about this very issue last Thursday – when the EPA chief mentioned no plans to go after the waiver at that point.

IN SOLIDARITY: A host of Senate Democrats, lead by Sen. Ed Markey, piled on their support for current emissions standards and pledged to defend them against any effort by the Trump administration to undo them. The senators wrote Friday to the governors of 13 states and the District of Columbia that have enforced stricter standards following California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act. “We stand in solidarity with the states and D.C. that have adopted California’s standards, and will oppose any unprecedented attack on the California waiver or on its standards,” they write. Read the letter here.