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Energy & Environment

Report: Trump Administration to Block California’s Fuel-Efficiency Standards

California Governor Jerry Brown delivers his final state of the state address in Sacramento, California, January 25, 2018. (Fred Greave/Reuters)

The Trump administration is expected to revoke California’s ability to establish its own fuel-efficiency standards as part of a broader reconstitution of federal environmental guidelines, Bloomberg News reported Monday.

The fuel-efficiency proposal is expected to be released this week, and will reportedly eliminate California’s Clean Air Act waiver, which allowed the state to require automakers to sell more electric vehicles and enforce more ambitious fuel-efficiency standards than the federal government’s.

In addition to constraining California’s power to enact its own environmental regulations, the proposal would also significantly weaken a broader set of Obama-era regulations implemented to curb the nation’s greenhouse-gas emissions.

As they currently stand, the 2011 federal fuel-efficiency standards require automakers to meet a 50 mpg standard by 2025. Under the new proposal, standards would be capped at the 35 mpg level required by 2020.

The administration’s decision to strip California of its regulatory autonomy will almost certainly prompt a protracted legal battle between administration lawyers, who will argue that the federal government has the sole right to enforce emissions standards, and state attorneys, who will be eager to cast the issue as one of state’s rights.

Critics of California’s more aggressive policing of greenhouse gases claim that the regulatory rollback will allow drivers to purchase newer, safer cars at a lower price because automakers’ compliance costs will be reduced. Environmentalists, meanwhile, oppose the move as an example of federal overreach.

“This is nothing less than an outrageous attack on public health and states’ rights,” Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, told Bloomberg. “It’s a dumb move for an administration that claims it wants peace, because this will lead to an emissions war: progressive states versus a reactionary federal government. The big question: Who will the car companies back?”

California, along with a coalition of 17 other states, sued the Trump administration in May in anticipation of the imminent regulatory rollback. The suit, which is currently being adjudicated, came after then-EPA administrator Scott Pruit pledged to eliminate the 2011 regulations.

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