21 States, 5 Cities Demand Trump Administration Preserve California’s Stricter Fuel Efficiency Guidelines

Attorney generals from 21 states and leaders of five cities demanded that the Trump administration withdraw its attempt to weaken clean car standards. The federal government said it will weaken federal targets for vehicle fuel efficiency, and end California’s ability to set stricter standards than those applied nationally.

“It’s not just the issue of climate change that’s in the balance. It’s also the health of the American people,” said California’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra in a news conference. Outgoing Governor Jerry Brown and the head of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) stood alongside.

The rules currently in effect require that the average fuel efficiency across all cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. by 2025 is at least 50 miles per gallon. California’s rules also cover electric vehicles, allowing it to require automakers to sell at least a specified number—about 1 million in the state by 2025, up from 420,000 today. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

The new Trump administration plan freezes the average fleet efficiency in 2020, which is 37 mpg, for six more years.

After the EPA and CARB agreed at the tail end of the Obama administration, in January 2017, to pursue current standards, the EPA reversed its decision April 2018, and officially announced its proposed rollback on August 2.

California and the EPA have battled over numbers. The EPA says relaxing rules would save consumers $1,850 per vehicle, while California’s Becerra said improved mileage would save $1,620 instead over a vehicle’s lifetime, beyond the reduction in gases tied to climate change.

California’s more rigorous rules, granted by waivers since the 1960s under the 1963 Clean Air Act and subsequent updates. Since 2002, that’s included a series of efforts to more rapidly reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from cars, light trucks, and tractor-trailers. The George W. Bush administration rejected a waiver for this program in 2007, but the decision was reversed in the Obama administration before it was settled in court.

Beginning in 2005, a number of states also adopted California’s rules. Currently, 12 others states and the District of Columbia use those standards.

The EPA wants to block these waivers going forward as well.

The parties jointly demanding a return to rules agreed on in January 2017 are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington, along with the District of Columbia, Los Angeles, New York, Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose.

While a similar group with two fewer states signaled their intent to sue on August 2 after the administration announced the specifics of its proposal. However, the current demand isn’t yet in court. Rather, the group filed extensive comments, released statements, and held press conferences. A suit could still follow.

Previously, 17 states and Washington, D.C., sued the Trump administration on May 1 over how the EPA withdrew its evaluation from January 2017 that supported the standards. In that suit, attorneys general argued that the administration’s action violated a law against arbitrary and capricious decisions. The EPA said standards were too restrictive.

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