Sep 19, 2019

How the Trump-California auto emissions fight captures the essence of 2019

Photo: Chen Mengtong/China News Service/VCG/Getty Images

President Trump's effort to yank California's power to impose vehicle carbon emission rules that are tougher than federal standards is very of-the-moment.

Driving the news: EPA this morning announced that they’re indeed revoking California’s waiver, stating it’s needed to ensure “there will be one, and only one, set of national fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for vehicles.”

  • EPA said the move won't scuttle California's ability to carry out programs that address other forms of tailpipe pollution.
  • Yanking the waiver is a precursor to rolling back the Obama-era emissions and mileage mandates.
  • Read EPA's summary here.

The big picture: Here's my scientific analysis of the reasons why the wider battle over vehicle emissions and mileage rules captures the zeitgeist of 2019...

  • It's important: Transportation has overtaken electricity production as the biggest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
  • It's messy on K Street: Like a number of Trump moves, the business community reaction is conflicted and complicated. In this case, automakers don't like the related White House effort to freeze Obama-era emissions and mileage mandates. They chafed at the Obama rules but say Trump's plan goes too far. The powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce agrees with the automakers.
  • It's political and cultural too: The move is the latest salvo in the wider White House battle with America's most lefty state. As Axios' Mike Allen noted yesterday, Trump is at war with California over the environment, homelessness, tax returns, immigration and more.
  • It's on Trump's phone: He announced the move on Twitter before his own agencies unveiled the plan (though to be fair this has previously surfaced in draft form).

The intrigue: EPA boss Andrew Wheeler this morning left open the possibility that when his agency and the Transportation Department finalize their rules, there might be some increases as opposed to an outright freeze at 2020 levels.

  • “We have not made a final decision yet on what the standards will be,” he said at a press conference, adding, “The final will not look exactly the same way that we proposed it.”

Go deeper: This Politico story unpacks Trump's claims about the vehicle safety and emissions effects of the administration plans.

Go deeper

Trump officials likely to back off automotive regulations freeze

Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty Images

The Trump administration will likely endorse modest increases in vehicle mileage and emissions standards when it completes rules to weaken Obama-era mandates, multiple sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: The move, depending on the details, will likely force automakers into tough decisions about whether to endorse it.

Go deeperArrowOct 2, 2019

Trump administration threatens California with highway funding cuts

Andrew Wheeler. Photo: Alastair Pike/AFP/Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency has sent the California Air Resources Board a letter threatening to cut federal highway funding because of air pollution issues — claiming that the state has the "worst air quality" in the U.S.

Why it matters: The letter, first reported by the Sacramento Bee, from EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler declaring that California has failed to "carry out its most basic tasks under the Clean Air Act" marks the latest in a series of battles between the Trump administration and the liberal state.

Go deeperArrowSep 24, 2019

California sues Trump over auto emissions battle

Photo: Florian Gaertner / Contributor/Getty Images

California and 23 other states filed suit against the Trump administration's plan to revoke the state's authority to set stricter tailpipe emissions rules than the rest of the country.

Why it matters: The outcome could have myriad effects, from which vehicles Americans drive years from now to the balance between state and federal power, the Washington Post notes. Automakers, some of which sided with California's stricter emissions targets, are dreading a drawn-out legal battle and being left not knowing which standards to follow.

Go deeperArrowSep 20, 2019