Cars are making their way to downtown Los Angeles on April 22nd. California could regain the right to set its own emissions standards for vehicles after the Environmental Protection Agency announced it would curb Trump-era policies aimed at undermining previously held power by the state. Mario Tama / Getty Images Hide caption
Mario Tama / Getty Images
Mario Tama / Getty Images
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Monday it was preparing to restore California’s right to set its own vehicle emissions standards in a much-anticipated reversal of Trump-era policies.
The decision, which will take several months to finalize, reaffirms the Golden State’s strong position as an environmental regulator after the Trump administration tried in 2019 to remove California’s powers to set its own emissions standards.
It also creates the conditions for negotiations on how strict federal vehicle standards will be under President Biden.
“I firmly believe that California has long been legally empowered to take the lead,” EPA administration Michael Regan said in a statement.
“The 2019 decision to lift the state’s exemption to enforce its greenhouse gas pollution standards for cars and trucks was legally dubious and an assault on the health and well-being of the public,” he added.
The EPA will accept public comments through July 6th as part of the process of reversing Trump-era rule.
The populous, car-loving state has been fighting smog for decades.
In recognition of this history, the EPA has long issued an exemption that gives the state the power to set its own standards for vehicle emissions, provided these are stricter than national regulations.
This is an unusual exception – other states cannot establish their own guidelines, although they can choose to adopt California standards as their own.
Between California and the following states, about a third of the US new car market is covered by Golden State policies, giving California regulators a notable influence on the auto industry.
However, when the Trump administration weakened federal standards for clean cars, it also attempted to overturn the waiver that allowed California to raise the bar.
This sparked a lawsuit and split the auto industry. Some automakers chose California and voluntarily accepted slightly stricter emissions standards for vehicles, while the rest supported the Trump administration.
After Biden won the White House, every major automaker eventually dropped its support for the now-doomed Trump position.
The EPA has now started to reverse Trump’s decision. The Ministry of Transport Last week it was also proposed to “wipe the regulatory slate,” suggesting that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would no longer seek to block state emissions standards as it did under Trump.
It is still not clear what federal vehicle emissions and fuel economy regulations will be under Biden’s administration. Some environmental groups and progressive lawmakers are pushing for the restoration of Obama-era standards with more ambitious goals.
The auto industry, meanwhile, is demanding standards midway between Obama-era and Trump-era policies.
The EPA says it will propose new fuel economy rules in July.