President Donald Trump’s senseless fight against good environmental policy continues unabated. His revocation of California’s authority to create strong auto-emissions standards that Washington and other states can join hurts both air quality and the auto industry.
No good reason exists for Trump to undo a gas-mileage bargain struck by California and four major carmakers over the summer. Like any business, the automakers want a stable regulatory environment, not one that swings with every presidential inauguration.
The agreement to increase fleet fuel efficiency to 51 miles per gallon, on average, by 2026 gave Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW predictability. By developing car technology to meet this standard now, they will be ready for future federal mandates for fuel-efficient transportation. The agreement also provides meaningful help for the drive to cut greenhouse gases and pressures the rest of the auto-building industry to meet the same standard.
The Clean Air Act of 1963 provided the framework that empowers California to set pollution standards to deal with its unique air problems. The bully-pulpit status created by this exemption, and California’s development of the world’s fifth-largest economy, remains strong. With more than 31 million cars and trucks registered in California, the auto industry cannot ignore the state’s strict requirements, which have been adopted by 13 additional states and the District of Columbia.
Yet Trump launched his assault on this clean-air policy with specious tweeted claims of making cars safer, cheaper and “extremely environmentally friendly.” The cold reality is that he is consolidating power through the steady erosion of states’ abilities for self-determination, policy by policy.
California already has announced plans to file a lawsuit over this aggressive federal move, as have Washington state officials. Despite Trump’s disinterest, the federal government has an absolute responsibility to set a pollution threshold that is effective to protect every state, but states should retain the right to enact even more stringent regulations to protect their own citizens.
Air pollution is both a local issue and a global one. Americans in California, Washington and elsewhere must not be made to suffer from smog and accelerated climate change just because it’s good for the oil business that cars have to burn more gasoline to get around.