The announcement that the Environmental Protection Agency is revoking California’s right to set strict air-pollution standards is a foolish gift to the oil industry that would harm all Americans. Why? Because California’s auto-emission standards improve air quality, decrease climate pollution, save consumers money and advance fuel-efficient car technology for everyone.
The proposed revocation strips all states, including Washington, of their authority under the Clean Air Act to control vehicle pollution and to require automakers to stock electric vehicles within states that have also adopted the Zero Emission Vehicle policy. Trump also plans to follow the revocation of state authority with a rollback of federal clean-car standards – a move that’s estimated by the Union of Concerned Scientists to cost American consumers an additional $55 billion a year in gasoline costs by the year 2040.
Washingtonians in particular benefit from California’s right to regulate automobiles. In 2005, Washington signed on to California’s Low Emission Vehicle requirement, requirements which have been matched by 12 other states and the District of Columbia. These requirements have caused Washington vehicles to be more fuel efficient and have saved Washington consumers millions at the pump.
California’s requirements have been very effective in reducing air pollution from cars and trucks, a cause of 53,000 deaths a year, according to an MIT study. How many thousands will die as a result of the Trump administration’s heedless action?
The Trump administration’s attacks on clean-car standards are broadly opposed. Recently, 24 bipartisan governors representing 52% of Americans signed onto the Nation’s Clean Car Promise supporting state authority to protect their residents from vehicle pollution. Four automakers, representing 30% of the U.S. auto market, made their own deal with states for stronger tailpipe pollution standards than what Trump is proposing. These automakers know they’re capable of achieving the cleaner car standards and that by doing so they’ll be better positioned to stay competitive in a growing global market for clean cars. A recent survey conducted by the Consumer Federation of America shows that 78% of Americans favor fuel-economy standards. Only the oil industry supports less efficient, more polluting cars.
The EPA’s revocation of California’s right to set its own standards is a body blow to efforts to stave off climate change and will result in 2.2 billion metric tons of additional emissions by 2040, the equivalent to 43 coal-fired power plants. It will also halt the ZEV program, the successful electric vehicle advancement program that has been adopted by 10 states and which has been critical to the development of the electric-vehicle industry.
The revocation of California’s waiver is on shaky legal ground. The federal Clean Air Act has since 1967 allowed California to set its own emission standards, provided that those standards are higher than those set by the federal government, and has allowed other states to follow California’s lead. The Clean Air Act does not provide the EPA with the authority to revoke a waiver.
The revocation is a heavy-handed assault on states’ rights. States should be allowed to decide to have the cleanest, most fuel-efficient vehicles possible, a right that they have enjoyed for more than 50 years.
The “science” behind the revocation is weak. For example, the Trump administration claims that the heavier vehicles that would be allowed if the clean-car standards are repealed are safer does not hold up to scrutiny. Lighter, newer vehicles perform as well or better than older, heavier versions in crash tests.
What can Washingtonians do about the revocation? First, let the EPA and your elected federal representatives know that you vehemently oppose Trump’s clean-vehicle rollback. Next, write to automakers and tell them that you want them to sell only clean vehicles in the state, and that you expect them to comply with the highest standards of fuel efficiency. Finally, work hard to elect officials who will work to advance the fight against climate change and air pollution.