States' rights
September 18, 2019

The Trump administration will formally revoke California's right to set its own stricter vehicle emissions rules this week, setting up a massive legal fight with high-stakes consequences for U.S. automakers and greenhouse gas emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency was scheduled to announce its unprecedented withdrawal of California's waiver on Wednesday, while Trump is raising more money in California, but after the news broke, the announcement has been pushed back to at least Thursday, The Washington Post reports.

The Trump administration has long signaled it will revoke California's special authority to set its own auto emissions standards, granted under the 1970 Clean Air Act. Other states gained the right to adhere to California's stricter standards under a 1977 law, and 13 states have pledged to follow California's current rules.

California vowed to fight the waiver withdrawal all the way to the Supreme Court, and environmental groups have signed on. Stripping California of the right to control its own air quality "could have devastating consequences for our kids' health and the air we breathe, if California were to roll over," Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said. "But we will not." In a speech to the National Automobile Dealers Association on Tuesday, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said "we embrace federalism and the role of the states, but federalism does not mean that one state can dictate standards for the nation."

Trump's move against California was originally supposed to be part of a broader rollback of fuel economy standards set under President Barack Obama, but the rest of the plan has gotten bogged down "as staff members struggled to prepare legal, technical, or scientific justifications for it," The New York Times reports. Wheeler told the Post last week that the rest of the rules will be finalized by the end of the year. But Trump "wanted to press forward with a policy that would punish California," the Times reports, after he was "blindsided and angered" by a deal California forged with four large automakers in July to adhere to California's goal of higher-efficiency vehicles by 2026 regardless of what the Trump EPA decides. The Justice Department is also examining whether that deal violates antitrust laws. Peter Weber

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