California Earning Clean Air Despite the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

While premature to claim victory, a report from the San Francisco Chronicle suggests that the California Air Resources Board will prevail in a looming showdown with the U.S. EPA over whether to allow the state to set vehicle emission standards.
July 13, 2017, 2pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"The Trump administration may be quietly conceding defeat to California on car tailpipe emissions, the biggest battleground in the state’s showdown with President Trump over climate change," reports Carolyn LochheadWashington correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt backed away last month from his threats to challenge California’s unique legal authority, known as a waiver, to set aggressive limits on vehicle emissions, including greenhouse gases.

Although Pruitt left the door open to a future challenge, experts said he is running out of time to stop California from dictating national pollution standards on cars, the nation’s primary source of greenhouse gas emissions.

At stake is the continuation of the California Air Resources Board's Advanced Clean Cars Program, "a cornerstone of the state’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gases," reported the Chronicle's Melody Gutierrez in late March after board members voted to retain its commitment to reduced air and greenhouse pollution, including support for "more than 4 million zero-emission vehicles in California by 2030," according to CARB. [Also posted here].

In March, President Trump announced his intention to roll back the President Obama's strict fuel efficiency standards of the midterm review, while California had affirmed the January decision reached by the EPA under President Obama. In January, then EPA Administrator-nominee Pruitt had left open the possibility of withdrawing the waiver, granted under the Clean Air Act, enabling California to pursue more rigorous emission standards.

In addition to California, 12 other states have adopted the state's more rigorous vehicle emission standards, accounting for about a third of the U.S. auto market.

Lochhead acknowledges recent events that are in synch with California's regulations that are moving the American auto market to produce more electric vehicles (EVs). Rolling back fuel efficiency standards would set back efforts to increase EV adoption.

Last week’s decisions by Chinese-owned Volvo to put electric engines in all its new cars, and by France to phase out gasoline and diesel cars by 2040, only strengthened California’s hand.

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Published on Sunday, July 9, 2017 in San Francisco Chronicle
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