Top California regulator: Emissions rule change 'blows a hole' in air pollution standards

Top California regulator: Emissions rule change 'blows a hole' in air pollution standards
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The chief of the California Air Resources Board is warning that the Trump administration's proposed changes to car emissions standards "blows a hole" in efforts to meet air-pollution standards.

Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the state panel, said the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule, deemed the Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient rule, is nothing of the kind.

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“There is nothing safe about this proposal,” Nichols said in prepared remarks released before the first public hearing on the proposal Monday.

“The proposal turns its back on decades of progress in cleaning up cars and trucks under the Clean Air Act; ignores currently available and cost-effective clean vehicle technology; wastes gasoline; and pumps more climate-changing gases into the atmosphere.”

Nichols is among the experts who will give testimony at the EPA’s hearing on the bill in Fresno, Calif., Monday. The agency will hold two more back-to-back hearings this week, in Dearborn, Mich., on Tuesday and in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

All eyes will be on Monday’s hearing, as California is the bedrock for resistance against a number of Trump’s regulatory rollbacks. The controversial August decision to weaken Obama-era car emissions standards, though, is striking a particular chord in California. The rule specifically aims to take away California’s ability to enforce its own much more stringent vehicle emissions standard.

“Your proposal emerged from a back-room process from which California was excluded, despite repeated efforts to join a conversation,” Nichols said in the statement.

“No doubt reflecting the hasty way it was developed, this proposal is riddled with numerous flaws.”

Nichols called the administration’s argument that California maintained no authority to regulate its own emissions “a flabby exercise in muscle flexing.”

The state has maintained it holds the authority under the Clean Air Act (CAA). California’s air pollution is among the worst in the nation and officials argue strict emissions controls are needed to thwart it.

California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraLuján will have 'assistant Speaker' title California AG Becerra included in Bloomberg 50 list Ocasio-Cortez, Tim Scott, Becerra among Bloomberg's 50 most noteworthy in 2018 MORE (D) announced in August his intent to sue the EPA if it finalizes the proposed rule, on similar grounds. Speaking at the public hearing Monday afternoon, Becerra doubled down that the state was "prepared to prove that EPA and [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's] proposed rollback of our national Clean Car Standards violates federal law."

"Do your job. Withdraw this proposal. Fulfill your duty under federal law to protect all Americans from harmful greenhouse gas emissions and to conserve energy," Becerra said in a prepared statement.

The new rule was determined jointly between EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Trump administration officials however argue that the CAA regulates smog, while the vehicle emissions standards focus on the release of greenhouse gases — something that affects states equally.

Transportation is the most significant source of carbon dioxide emissions in the nation, and the Obama rules were estimated to reduce emissions by 6 billion metric tons and reduce oil use by 2 million barrels per day.

The rule will be finalized after the public comment period ends in late October.

The story was updated 1:33 p.m.