California Gov. Gavin Newsom hit back Tuesday, Sept. 17, against reported plans by the Donald Trump administration to formally revoke a Clean Air Act waiver that allows the Golden State to set emissions rules that are stricter than the federal government.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce a rollback of the plan at a private event at its headquarters, a move seen as a direct attack against the Democratic stronghold in the West.
The decision comes almost two weeks after the Justice Department launched an antitrust probe into a deal struck by California and four automakers to boost fuel efficiency.
“The president could learn from California. Instead, reports today suggest that his administration will act on a political vendetta by announcing they intend to end aspects of our clean car waiver,” Newsom said in a statement. “It’s a move that could have devastating consequences for our kids’ health and the air we breathe, if California were to roll over. But we will not – we will fight this latest attempt and defend our clean car standards. California, global markets, and Mother Nature will prevail.”
The political dispute between California and the Trump administration began almost the day Trump was inaugurated, as the president promised to roll back the Barack Obama-era rule requiring auto manufacturers to increase fuel efficiency by 5% in all models by 2025.
California then announced its intention to establish its own rulemaking authority, granted by the Clean Air Act to establish its own fuel efficiency standards, and flexed that muscle by making the deal with the four automakers. The Trump administration will attempt to revoke that decades-old independent authority, but legal experts question whether it has the authority to do so.
“There is nothing under the Clean Air Act that allows the EPA to revoke a waiver that was given to the state,” said Margo Oge, director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality from 1994 to 2012. “They cannot do that, in my view, based on 20 years managing the program.”