Setting up a showdown with California, the Trump administration on Thursday announced a plan to revoke a signature Obama-era environmental regulation.
The administration wants to freeze a rule mandating that automakers work to make cars substantially more fuel efficient. It called its plan a “50-state fuel economy and tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions standard for passenger cars and light trucks.”
The administration also proposed a withdrawal of California’s Clean Air Act preemption waiver. California and about a dozen states that follow its rules account for about a third of all the passenger vehicles sold in the United States.
California Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, called the proposal “reckless.”
“For Trump to now destroy a law first enacted at the request of Ronald Reagan five decades ago is a betrayal and an assault on the health of Americans everywhere,” said Brown, in a statement. “California will fight this stupidity in every conceivable way possible.”
Thirteen states, plus Washington, DC, have adopted California’s standards. Colorado announced plans to become the fourteenth.
California has, for decades, had a waiver allowing it to set its own emissions standards because the state had distinct air quality issues. In 2007, a federal court allowed California to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, in particular carbon dioxide.
The only way to lower CO2 emissions from cars is to reduce the actual amount of fuel burned – it cannot be easily filtered out or reduced like other pollutants. That created a potentially difficult situation for the auto industry: States would have, in effect, different fuel economy standards.
The Obama administration’s answer was a unified fuel economy and emissions regimen worked out among the California regulators, the EPA, which regulates emissions, and NHTSA, which regulates fuel economy.
The attorneys general of 20 states, including California, pledged to sue the Trump administration. They called the plan illegal, saying it would force motorists to pay more for gas and crea