What Trump’s Auto Emissions Plan Means for California

President Donald Trump flashes a thumbs up in front of an SUV

Attorney General Josh Shapiro joined a coalition of 19 states and the District of Columbia in releasing the following joint statement announcing an intention to challenge the Trump Administration's illegal and environmentally-destructive plan to roll back federal limits on tailpipe pollution from cars and trucks.

If the proposed rule becomes final, it could roil the auto industry as it prepares for new model years and weaken one of the federal government's chief weapons against climate change - regulating emissions from cars and other vehicles.

The administration also said it wants to revoke an authority granted to California under the half-century-old Clean Air Act to set its own, tougher mileage standards.

"The earth is not flat, and climate change is real", California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said, as he connected global warming to the deadly wildfires burning out of control throughout the state.

The administration's proposal asserts that "attempting to solve climate change, even in part" is "fundamentally different" from the Clean Air Act's "original goal of addressing smog-related air quality problems".

Instead of requiring carmakers to steadily increase the fuel efficiency of their vehicles by 2025, Trump wants to freeze those levels after 2020.

California has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

They also said the policy shift would lead to fewer highway deaths by enabling more consumers to afford new vehicles that are safer than those being traded in.

Some Republican lawmakers supported the mileage freeze, but environmental groups and many states assailed it. "It's going to cost drivers here and across the country hundreds of millions of dollars more at the pump".

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"The Trump administration just proposed rolling back limits on auto pollution". California and the automakers agreed to the rules in 2012, setting a single national fuel economy standard.

While the chief executives of auto companies past year asked Trump to loosen the Obama-era rules, they have since asked him not to pull them as far back as he has sought to do in Thursday's proposal. Vehicle expert Simon Mui at the Natural Resources Defense Council says those losses would hit the estimated 200,000 US auto-industry jobs that deal with making vehicles more fuel efficient.

A U.S. Department of Transportation spokesperson calls the government's estimate of job losses "rough approximations".

Nevertheless, the White House's proposal argues that, "freezing the fleetwide average of 37 miles per gallon in 2020 would prevent roughly 12,700 traffic fatalities in vehicles built through model year 2029".

"They don't offer any meaningful example of what has changed so dramatically" to warrant the reversal, said Jeff Alson, who until this spring was a senior engineer in the EPA's transportation and air quality office. The Golden State's Democratic Governor Jerry Brown was a bit more emphatic in his response, saying that his state "will fight this stupidity in every conceivable way possible". That argument remained on the EPA's website Thursday. "By rolling back current fuel economy standards, the Trump Administration will cost the United States $450 billion by 2050 and increase health risks associated with air pollution". It says keeping the Obama-era standards in place would increase the cost of an average vehicle by $2,340, prompting consumers to hold back in buying newer, safer vehicles and end up aging the nation's fleet of cars on the road.

Transportation experts question the reasoning behind the proposal.

The administration said the proposed rollback would mean billions of dollars in regulatory savings for vehicle manufacturers. For the states that don't now have those standards, it's even more important for more stringent federal standards to remain in place.

A drawn-out legal battle over the standards could hurt the auto industry as it tries to plan for coming model years. The Trump Administration is also proposing to withdraw the waiver granted to California more than five years ago for the State's own greenhouse gas emissions standards and its successful zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) programs- an unprecedented and unlawful action that flies in the face of congressional intent and would aggravate the harms to consumers, public health, the economy and the environment caused by the weakening of the federal standards. If left alone, the Obama standards would continue to add an additional $2,340 to the average price of a new vehicle, according to Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

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