States' Rights don't apply to California when it comes to regulating car fuel efficiency and carbon emissions

Smog
CC BY 2.0 Wikipedia/ Those were the days: California smog

The US government is intent on taking away the state's ability to meet carbon targets and regulate emissions.

TreeHugger has covered how the EPA is looking at rolling back the fuel efficiency standards that the auto industry agreed to after the Obama bailouts. There was this one pesky problem: California. For decades it has exercised its right to set its own standards that were tougher, and more recently has promoted electric cars. It’s also BIG, with its citizens buying as many cars as all of Canada. A dozen states follow California’s rules, totalling a third of car sales in the country. It doesn’t make sense to make different cars for different states, so most of the auto manufacturers try to follow the California standard.

But now we are in the Trump era, in which Americans like things the way they were, when real men dug for coal and drilled for fossil fuels, and people drove big cars and trucks that drank lots of fossil fuels. So what if California wants cleaner air and has carbon targets? They can’t be allowed to get in the way of turning back the clock. As Steve Milloy of the Heartland Institute is quoted in Bloomberg, “Congress didn’t intend for California to set national fuel economy standards. It’s nutty it’s been allowed to develop. National fuel economy standards are set by the federal government so that’s what we are going to do.”

So, according to Bloomberg, the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “will propose revoking the Clean Air Act waiver granted to California that has allowed the state to regulate carbon emissions from vehicle tailpipes and force carmakers to sell a minimum number of electric vehicles in the state.”


The funny thing is, “states’ rights” is a big driver of government policy when it comes to race, education, mining and land ownership, but somehow those rights don’t apply here. It is, however, one of the arguments being used to fight the changes.

California, for its part, rejects the idea that its 48 years of ability to write its own tailpipe emission rules should end. “We have the law on our side, as well as the people of the country and the people of the world,” said Dan Sperling, a member of the state’s Air Resources Board….California and 16 other states plus the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit on May 2 seeking to block the Trump administration’s effort to unravel the Obama-era emissions targets. Sperling said that number will grow as more people come to realize how fundamentally Trump is attacking the idea of states’ rights.

The car makers are keeping quiet about all of this. “A spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers declined to comment.” We noted previously that this organization should be carrying the can for the CAFE rollbacks, so no doubt they are secretly happy about this. They made the argument before that it would “keep new vehicles affordable to more Americans,” an argument the government is making now, claiming “it will reduce traffic fatalities by making it cheaper for drivers to replace older, less-safe cars, while paring sticker prices for new vehicles even if motorists have to buy more gasoline.”

Except, of course, that they are all buying SUVs and pickups and will be killing more pedestrians and cyclists, buying more gasoline, and breathing more smog. But hey, you can’t have those California hippies and treehuggers telling the USA what to do.

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