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SACRAMENTO — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today said the Trump Administration should not fear giving the public a chance to comment on its proposed rollback of the nation’s Clean Car Standards. Attorney General Becerra urged the Administration to extend the comment period from 60 to the more appropriate 120 days. The controversial proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would imperil the current greenhouse gas emission standards for model year 2021-2026 vehicles and put in place weakened emission and fuel efficiency standards at the expense of our health, our environment, and our economy.
“Our nation’s existing Clean Car Standards ensure that we can protect our families’ health, save consumers thousands of dollars, and tackle harmful pollution causing dangerous climate change,” said Attorney General Becerra. “When it comes to a 515-page proposal of this magnitude, President Trump should not fear hearing the truth from the public about his destructive attack on America’s Clean Car Standards. The environment we leave for our children and grandchildren deserves more than simply 60 days of comment. We urge the EPA and the NHTSA to extend the current comment period. Meanwhile, we will continue doing all we can to protect our Clean Car Standards.”
In 2010, the EPA, NHTSA, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and car manufacturers established a unified national program harmonizing greenhouse gas emission standards and fuel efficiency (CAFE) standards. Two years later, the agencies extended the national program to model years 2017-2025 vehicles. As part of the program, California and the federal agencies agreed to undertake a midterm evaluation to determine if the greenhouse gas emission standards for model years 2022-2025 vehicles should be maintained or revised.
In January 2017, the EPA completed the midterm evaluation by issuing a final determination, affirming that the existing standards were appropriate and would not be changed. The EPA arrived at this conclusion based on an extensive record it developed in conjunction with CARB. CARB confirmed in March 2017 that the agreed-upon standards for model years 2022-2025 were appropriate and feasible.
On April 13, 2018, however, the Trump Administration took the first step toward dismantling the national program when it issued a revised final determination that alleged the federal greenhouse gas standards for model year 2022-2025 vehicles were no longer appropriate.
The Administration failed to provide any appropriate or relevant evidence for its arbitrary and capricious revision of its previous midterm evaluation. Leading a coalition of 17 states and the District of Columbia, Governor Brown, Attorney General Becerra, and CARB sued the EPA on May 1, 2018, over the EPA’s April 13 action.
On August 2, 2018, the Trump Administration made its rollback proposal official. Instead of adopting commonsense standards to increase vehicle fuel efficiency, as federal law requires, the Administration is moving to freeze the standards at the 2020 level through model year 2026. Similarly, rather than addressing the pressing and real threat of climate change as the Clean Air Act mandates, the Administration is moving to freeze greenhouse gas emissions standards for vehicles for those same years.
If enacted, this proposal will cost consumers billions of dollars in additional gasoline to run less efficient cars and light-duty trucks. It will also degrade air quality and put millions of additional tons of climate-disrupting pollution into the atmosphere. The Trump Administration is also challenging California’s longstanding authority to manage its greenhouse gas emissions standards and its successful zero-emission vehicle programs. This unprecedented and unlawful action against California flies in the face of congressional intent and would aggravate the harms to consumers, public health, the economy and the environment caused by the weakening of the federal standards. The Administration’s proposal would also block many other states that use California standards from moving forward.
The day of the Trump Administration’s announcement, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., California Attorney General Becerra, and CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols voiced their strong opposition. The Attorneys General of Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and the District of Columbia did the same.
The car industry is currently on track to meet or exceed existing Clean Car Standards. The federal Clean Air Act of 1970 preserves California’s authority to set its own stricter-than-federal vehicle emissions regulations to address the State’s extraordinary air quality challenges and because it had vehicle air quality regulations on its books predating the Clean Air Act and EPA. Since the late 1960s, CARB has adopted, implemented, and enforced a wide array of nation-leading air pollution controls, based on a strong foundation of science and reflecting a longstanding partnership with federal air quality regulators. Its pollution control strategies have proven to be a model for other states, the nation, and other countries.
The ability of other states to adopt California’s strict vehicle emission standards, as long as they are at least as stringent as federal standards, is explicitly written into section 177 of the Clean Air Act.
A copy of the request to extend the official comment period is available here.