California officials Friday launched their formal opposition to the Trump administration’s effort to roll back ambitious rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions from trucks and cars, saying the president’s plan will cost American consumers in the long run.
“Wrong way to go, Donald,” Gov. Jerry Brown said, speaking to reporters at an R Street overlook near I-5. “Get with it. Bad, to put it in the vernacular.”
Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, said the state filed 415 pages of testimony attacking the “completely unjustified and illegal proposal” by President Donald Trump’s administration. Twenty other attorneys general filed testimony against the Trump plan.
It’s the latest salvo in a battle between California and Washington over greenhouse gas emissions, electric vehicles and fuel-economy standards. The state has already sued the Trump administration over the issue.
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Tailpipe emissions account for 28 percent of greenhouse gases, and since 2009 the Air Resources Board and the Obama administration agreed to a plan to gradually scale back carbon emissions, year by year, on new cars.
The Trump plan is also a direct assault of sorts on California’s unique ability to set stricter-than-the-nation guidelines on air pollution, as spelled out in the 1973 federal Clean Air Act. The Trump administration has said it wants to revoke California’s authority.
It also wants to thwart California’s “advanced clean car” regulations, which will require automakers to dramatically increase sales of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in the state, from about 420,000 on the road today to 1 million in 2025.
California officials said they’re ready to defend the state’s authority to impose strict limitations on carbon emissions.
“It won’t stand,” Brown said of the Trump effort.
As things stand now, the plan would reduce tailpipe emissions by one third over the next seven years. That would also increase average fuel economy from 35 miles per gallon to more than 54 mpg; as a practical matter, building lighter cars with better gas mileage is the most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
But in August, the Trump administration said it would freeze those standards at 37 mpg. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the relaxed rules will save new-car buyers an average of $1,850 per vehicle. But California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the stricter rules would more than pay for themselves through improved fuel mileage; he argued that purchasers would save $1,620 over the life of their vehicle.
The rules “save consumers money, reduce emissions,” Becerra said.
Automakers initially pleaded with Trump to relax the rules but then urged the administration to forge a compromise with California, saying the uncertainty over a fight between the two would hinder their ability to plan for future model years.Nichols, however, said the Trump administration has shown little interest in negotiating.
Brown said U.S. automakers are beginning to realize that Trump’s efforts would actually harm the American industry, which he said will get overtaken by Chinese manufacturers if it sticks with fossil fuels. Preserving the existing rules “means jobs, it means American power in the world,” the governor said. He said most automakers realize that the future lies in electric vehicles and other clean technologies.
The relentless northbound traffic on I-5 made for a striking visual backdrop for the press conference but a noisy one; reporters had to shout or step to within a couple of feet of Brown, Nichols and Becerra to get their questions heard. Brown gestured to the vehicles and said, “They’re all going to be electric, and very, very quiet, very soon.”