According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the current administration is preparing to revoke the California waiver which, under the Clean Air Act, allows California to set greenhouse gas emissions for model year 2009 and newer motor vehicles (EPA, 2009). Currently California applies cleaner vehicle emission standards than what is required by federal law. Thirteen other states follow the emissions standards set forth by California, which represent about one third of the entire automobile market.
Regulating vehicle emissions is not a recent development for the Golden State. California has been regulating automobile emissions since the 1960’s, when Los Angeles was faced with a growing public health crisis caused by blanketing smog from excessive exhaust emissions. Ever since then, California was provided with a waiver which allowed the state to create its own set of regulations, so long as they were more stringent than the federal standards. Other states were given the choice of either adhering to the California guidelines or the federal standards set forth by the EPA (NYT, 2019).
According to a statement made Tuesday by the EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, the Trump administration is planning to establishing a set of “national fuel-economy standards” in order “to bring clarity to the proper – and improper – scope and use of the Clean Air Act preemption waiver.”
In response to the EPA, California Governor Gavin Newsome said:
“California won’t ever wait for permission from Washington to protect the health and safety of children and families. While the White House has abdicated its responsibility to the rest of the world on cutting emissions and fighting global warming, California has stepped up.” (CA.gov, 2019)
California alone has nearly 15 million registered cars, each capable of producing an average of 4.6 metric tons of CO2 per year (EPA, 2019). This rollback could cause a ripple effect for greenhouse gas emissions across the country if proven successful. Also considering California operates the largest economy in the United States and the fifth largest in the world, with a gross state product (GSP) of about 3 trillion dollars, the potential for unintended economic consequences also exists (Bea.gov, 2018).
This is just one of many recent moves the current administration has made to deregulate current environmental protections in return for short term economic gains which will ultimately help to accelerate the current climate crisis .
CA.gov, 2019: https://www.gov.ca.gov/2019/09/17/governor-gavin-newsom-responds-to-reports-that-trump-administration-will-announce-a-rollback-of-californias-clean-car-waiver/
Bea.gov, 2018: https://www.bea.gov/system/files/2019-04/qgdpstate0519_4.pdf
EPA, 2009: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2009-07-08/pdf/E9-15943.pdf
EPA, 2019: https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/greenhouse-gas-emissions-typical-passenger-vehicle
NYT, 2019: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/17/climate/trump-california-emissions-waiver.html