Trump revokes California's auto emissions standards waiver

Administration has ongoing fight with Golden State

By Kevin Liptak and Gregory Wallace, CNN
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(CNN) - President Donald Trump announced Wednesday he was revoking California's authority to set its own vehicle emission standards, the latest move in the Trump administration's ongoing fight with the Golden State and attempts to chip away at former President Barack Obama's environmental legacy.

"The Trump Administration is revoking California's Federal Waiver on emissions in order to produce far less expensive cars for the consumer, while at the same time making the cars substantially SAFER," Trump tweeted.

The President made the announcement while visiting California for fundraisers. He was in his hotel in Los Angeles when he sent the tweets.

California's waiver under the Clean Air Act allowed it to set standards tighter than the federal standards, which have been adopted by more than a dozen states and became the de-facto nationwide standard, because automakers do not design different sets of vehicles to meet different standards in different states.

The Trump administration has long been at odds with California, especially on environmental issues. Talks between California environmental regulators and the administration broke down earlier this year. Yet this summer, the state negotiated an agreement with several automakers to design cars to meet standards higher than those set by the federal government.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said on Tuesday the Trump administration "has abdicated its responsibility to the rest of the world on cutting emissions and fighting global warming" and is acting "on a political vendetta."

The state's attorney general threatened a lawsuit if the administration goes through with the plan.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra said at a news conference following the announcement that the administration's plan is "desperate."

The Trump administration is also working on replacing Obama-era federal vehicle-emission standards.

"This will lead to more production because of this pricing and safety advantage, and also due to the fact that older, highly polluting cars, will be replaced by new, extremely environmentally friendly cars," Trump wrote in an additional tweet. "There will be very little difference in emissions between the California Standard and the new U.S. Standard, but the cars will be far safer and much less expensive."

"Many more cars will be produced under the new and uniform standard, meaning significantly more JOBS, JOBS, JOBS! Automakers should seize this opportunity because without this alternative to California, you will be out of business," he added.

"We embrace federalism and the role of the states, but federalism does not mean that one state can dictate standards for the nation," Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler said Tuesday.

The Auto Alliance, an industry group that contends the Obama-era standards were unrealistic, said it would take a closer look at the Trump administration's approach.

"Automakers support year-over-year increases in fuel economy standards that align with marketplace realities, and we support one national program as the best path to preserve good auto jobs, keep new vehicles affordable for more Americans and avoid a marketplace with different standards," said Dave Schwietert, the group's interim CEO and president.

Jeff Alson, who spent four decades at the EPA including in the Office of Transportation and Air Quality, said "there is no legal basis" for revoking the waiver.

"If the courts allow this unprecedented reversal, and the Trump EPA massively rolls back the federal Clean Car Standards, then President Trump will have done more to destroy the planet than any other president in history," said Alson, who is now with the Environmental Protection Network, a group of former agency employees.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

Correction: The headline has been changed to correctly state that the waiver allowed California to set higher emissions standards. This story has been updated to correctly spell Jeff Alson's name.

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