Washington, DC — The head of the EPA is signaling plans to square off against California’s decades-old waiver pre-dating the federal Clean Air Act that allows it and other states who opt-in to pursue separate, stricter vehicle-emissions standards than the federal ones.
The waiver which has been in effect since 1970, has been renewed without much opposition except during the George W Bush administration, which moved to block it back in 2007. However, the Obama administration once it took office reversed gears on the action before courts could decide the matter. A dozen or more states are following California’s tougher standards, estimated to affect as much as 40 percent of the nation’s currently in use vehicles.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has announced that the agency will be working with all the states, including California, to set new pollution and mileage standards for gas- and diesel-powered vehicles. As reported here, this news follows on the heels of Pruitt’s statement on Monday the EPA would be relaxing the federal standards, a move supported by the automotive industry and some conservative groups. Under Governor Jerry Brown’s administration, the state is further tracking to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. However in order to do this it must continue to receive federal waivers.
Responding to Pruitt’s move on Monday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra stated that his office was ready to file suit if needed to protect the state’s standards and fight what he termed as the Trump administration’s war on the environment of the world’s sixth-largest economy. State environmental law experts who have weighed in maintain that the Trump administration faces an uphill legal battle to simply revoke California’s long-standing waiver but may have an opening when the state approaches the EPA again with plans to further restrict state emissions rules.