Governor Brown, Attorney General Becerra and CARB Chair Nichols Lead National Coalition Demanding Trump Administration Withdraw Proposal to Eliminate Nation’s Clean Car Standards

Friday, October 26, 2018
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California submits comments showing federal proposal is deeply flawed, while current achievable standards save consumers money, reduce emissions and protect public health

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. and California Air Resources Board (CARB) Chair Mary Nichols – leading a coalition of 21 attorneys general and the cities of Oakland, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco and New York – today filed formal written comments demanding the Trump Administration’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) withdraw their dangerous and misguided proposal to eliminate the national Clean Car Standards. The comments submitted today include rigorous legal and technical analyses highlighting the consumer, climate and public health benefits of the current achievable standards and the federal proposal’s numerous flaws, use of faulty assumptions, incorrect modeling, cherry-picked data and fundamental misunderstanding of consumer behavior.

“This Trump Administration attack on innovative vehicle technology jeopardizes the health of millions and will cost drivers billions at the pump,” said Governor Brown. “Foolishly, it mandates gas guzzlers instead of clean and zero-emission cars. Wrong way to go.”

“The evidence is clear: we must act now to protect ourselves and future generations from the existential threat of climate change, but instead Trump is driving us on a collision course with catastrophe,” said Attorney General Becerra. “This is no longer merely a looming threat; in California and throughout the nation, we’re already suffering the impacts of climate change. It makes zero sense to eliminate a successful program that is projected to save vehicle owners $1.7 trillion over the life of the program and will help the U.S. achieve oil independence through significant fuel savings. We demand that the Trump Administration reverse course and withdraw this foolish proposal that will not only cost consumers money, but will endanger their health and well-being.”

“The rules in effect today constitute the basis for the successful one national program and have been in place since 2012. They have been fully incorporated into auto company planning, and automakers are already meeting these rules with a fleet that is growing cleaner, safer and more efficient,” said CARB Chair Nichols.“There is no justification in law or in fact for the current de-regulatory proposal as our extensive comments clearly demonstrate.” 

The current Clean Car Standards require appropriate and feasible reductions in fuel economy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from passenger cars and light trucks. These standards save consumers money, reduce harmful carbon emissions and help protect the health of Americans. In fact, the current rule is expected to prevent up to 2,000 premature deaths, 50,000 cases of respiratory ailments and reduce asthma symptoms for 24 million Americans, including 6.3 million children. It is also estimated to save the average consumer $1,620 over the lifetime of a car or truck. Additionally, the standards promote technological innovation, as well as research and development – supporting thousands of American jobs.  

The Trump Administration’s proposal would throw out these standards – which are supported by scientific research and technical analysis (including EPA’s own extensive study) – in favor of a proposal that requires no vehicle fuel economy or GHG emissions improvements for a period of at least six years. In addition, the proposal unlawfully attempts to revoke California’s long-standing authority to manage its own more stringent GHG standards and its successful zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) program, putting millions of Californians – and Americans across the country – at risk.

This proposal poses significant harm to consumers, public health, the economy and the environment. It would degrade air quality and put millions of additional tons of climate-disrupting pollution into the atmosphere, while costing consumers billions of dollars in additional gasoline to operate less efficient vehicles. The EPA and NHTSA’s plan also blatantly disregards pleas from the scientific communitybusinesses and world leaders to curb GHG emissions and provide leadership for continued innovation and job growth in advanced technologies. Experts have warned that rolling back protections such as the Clean Car Standards would aggressively accelerate global warming with wide-ranging consequences, including temperature increases, ocean warming, sea level rise, increased hospitalizations and mortality, stress and die-off of animal and plant species, extreme weather events, famine, drought and forced human migration.

The comments submitted today include a letter from 21 attorneys general and the cities of Oakland, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco and New York as well as more than 400 pages of analysis from CARB identifying important reasons why the proposal is both unlawful and flawed, runs counter to the evidence and should be immediately withdrawn.

Specifically, the federal proposal:

  • Ignores overwhelming scientific consensus that immediate and continual progress toward a near-zero emission economy by mid-century is necessary to avoid irreversible and catastrophic climate change impacts;
  • Requires little or no progress on GHG emission standards or fuel economy for a period of six years, replacing technically feasible standards requiring significant reductions in emissions and fuel consumption;
  • Threatens public health and welfare, including worsening smog and toxic exposure;
  • Grossly inflates the costs of compliance using outdated models and incorrect engineering assumptions about both gasoline-powered and electric-drive automobiles;
  • Relies on flawed technical analyses, including illogical assumptions about how consumers buy and keep cars, along with a host of unsupported assumptions about why people will purportedly drive longer in older cars under the existing standards;
  • Depends on a flawed safety analysis that incorrectly and unreliably predicts more fatalities under the existing standards;
  • Draws conclusions about the available technology – and capacity to develop technology – that are not based on reasonable inferences or technical expertise;
  • Fails to fully disclose the extent to which jobs and competitive advantage in the world will be lost;
  • Violates numerous important procedural requirements, and is based on an illegitimate mid-term evaluation based on unsound evidence and data;
  • Violates the Clean Air Act by increasing GHG emissions the agency is tasked to reduce; and
  • Violates NHTSA’s duty to promote energy efficiency and conservation and is contrary to the Energy Policy Conservation Act.

The comments also note that: NHTSA’s proposed finding that California’s emissions standards are preempted is unfounded and has already been rejected by two federal courts; EPA’s proposal to revoke parts of California’s Advanced Clean Cars waiver is contrary to statute and long-standing agency practice, and is unsupported by either facts or the law; and the proposal is an unlawful assault on the ability of California to retain the standards it designed and adopted specifically to protect Californians and could deprive other states of the ability to choose between the federal standards and California’s standards. To date, 12 other states have adopted these standards.


In 2010, the EPA, NHTSA, CARB and car manufacturers established a unified national program harmonizing GHG emission standards and fuel efficiency 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 NHTSA and CARB. CARB also confirmed in March 2017 that its Advanced Clean Cars standards, which are part of the national program, remained appropriate and feasible.

On April 13, 2018, however, the Trump Administration took a significant 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 Trump Administration’s April 13 action.

On August 24, 2018, the Trump Administration made its rollback proposal official. In place of commonsense standards to increase vehicle fuel efficiency and reduce GHG emissions, as federal law requires, the administration moved to freeze the standards at the 2020 level through model year 2026. The administration’s proposal would likely also block many other states that use California standards from moving forward. The day of the Trump Administration’s announcement, California Governor Brown, California Attorney General Becerra and CARB Chair Nichols voiced their strong opposition. The attorneys general of Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and the District of Columbia did the same.

On September 24, 2018, at a public hearing in Fresno, California, Attorney General Becerra along with CARB Chair Nichols, Cal EPA Secretary Matt Rodriquez and other California state leaders provided testimony to EPA and NHTSA officials on the importance of the current standards and criticized the agencies’ failure to uphold the law.

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, because it had vehicle air quality regulations on its books predating the Clean Air Act and the creation of the federal 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, under specified conditions, is explicitly written into section 177 of the Clean Air Act.

A copy of the letter and supplemental materials from the 21 attorneys general and the cities of Oakland, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco and New York as well as CARB’s analysis, submitted today, can be found here, here, and here.


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