As promised, the Trump administration has revoked California’s emission waver and moved to prevent other states from setting their own fuel economy standards.
The move comes as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency issued a “final action” known as the “One National Program Rule.” The EPA says it will enable the federal government to “provide nationwide uniform fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for automobiles and light duty trucks.”
In effect, the government is arguing federal law preempts state and local greenhouse gas emissions standards as well as zero emission vehicle mandates. The government says this authority was provided to them by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act.
As part of their effort to reaffirm this “statutory authority,” the EPA is withdrawing the Clean Air Act waiver that was granted to California in 2013. However, this action only applies to their greenhouse gas and zero emission vehicle programs. It won’t have any impact on their low emission vehicle program and other efforts to battle pollution.
If revoking the wavier wasn’t enough of a slap in the face to California, the EPA said the “state must redouble its efforts to address the worst air quality in the United States and finally achieve compliance with EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards, where for decades it has failed to address serious, severe, and extreme non-compliance status in several areas within the state.”
The government contends the move is part of their effort to finalize the so-called “Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks.” This would enable vehicles to be less efficient than proposals by the Obama administration as automakers would only need to hit an average of 37 mpg (44 mpg UK / 6.3L / 100km).
…. advantage, and also due to the fact that older, highly polluting cars, will be replaced by new, extremely environmentally friendly cars. There will be very little difference in emissions between the California Standard and the new U.S. Standard, but the cars will be….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 18, 2019
The government contends this is in the best interest of everyone as President Trump tweeted the new standard will “…. produce far less expensive cars for the consumer, while at the same time making the cars substantially SAFER. This will lead to more production because of this pricing and safety advantage, and also due to the fact that older, highly polluting cars, will be replaced by new, extremely environmentally friendly cars.” He went on to claim “There will be very little difference in emissions between the California Standard and the new U.S. Standard, but the cars will be far safer and much less expensive.”
Needless to say it’s a bit of convoluted logic, but Trump is arguing that less stringent emission standards will enable cars to be produced more affordably and these savings will be passed onto consumers. These lower prices will then attract people to buy new cars which are inherently safer than the ones they replace.
As the EPA explained, “The SAFE rule’s standards are projected to save the nation billions of dollars and strengthen the U.S. domestic manufacturing base by adding millions of new car sales. Most importantly, because newer cars are safer than ever before, the new standards are projected to save thousands of lives and prevent tens of thousands of Americans from being hospitalized by car crashes.”
The move likely set means yet another legal battle between the government and California as Governor Gavin Newsom has previously said “We will fight this latest attempt and defend our clean car standards.”