California tees up effort to counter Trump’s car emissions rollback

California tees up effort to counter Trump’s car emissions rollback
© Greg Nash

California officials are preparing a regulatory counterpunch against the Trump administration’s proposal to roll back auto emissions and fuel efficiency standards.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) on Tuesday outlined its argument that a federal proposal to revoke the state's authority to set its own emissions rules is illegal.

“This is contrary to the facts and the law,” CARB declared in a 54-page report.

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“It frustrates Congressional intent, upheld by the Supreme Court and lower federal courts, in the Clean Air Act and the Energy Policy and Conservation Act to conserve energy and protect the environment by setting maximum feasible standards, and to preserve California’s authority to take the measures it deems necessary to set its own motor vehicle emission standards.”

The proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would also cancel out heightened emissions standards set to take effect for vehicles built between 2021 and 2026, freezing the standards at their planned 2020 level.

With Tuesday’s report, CARB is officially proposing its first step against the Trump administration's rollback.

Since recent federal car standards have aligned with California’s, regulators have deemed automakers to be in compliance with the state rules if they follow the federal ones.

Now, CARB wants to amend its regulations so that the assumption of compliance would only apply if the Trump administration doesn’t ease the standards.

“The proposed amendments will ensure that appropriate and necessary greenhouse gas emission reductions and public health protections are achieved by California’s standards,” the agency wrote Tuesday. “They are also important for maintaining the pace of greenhouse gas emission reductions that are necessary to achieve our statutory targets.”

CARB’s proposal would become moot if the Trump administration successfully challenges the state’s authority to set its own rules. The fight is expected to play out mainly in the federal court system.

California and 19 other states are promising to sue the federal government if it moves forward with the proposal to roll back the standards set by the Obama administration. 

“We have led from the very beginning, and we will lead again when it comes to protecting the national standards for cleaner cars,” California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOvernight Energy: Watchdog to investigate EPA over Hurricane Harvey | Panel asks GAO to expand probe into sexual harassment in science | States sue over methane rules rollback Some states back plaintiff suing DHS over Haitians' protected status California, New Mexico sue over Trump methane pollution rollback MORE (D) said last week.

CARB is accepting public comments on its proposal through Sept. 24, and will hold a public meeting on it Sept. 27.