California to fight if EPA eases emissions rule – San Francisco Chronicle

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is expected to start rolling back tough limits on carbon pollution from cars and trucks this week, and may be considering a plan to revoke California’s authority to set its own pollution standards for vehicles, a linchpin of the state’s effort to battle climate change.

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt is pushing the move to weaken emissions standards, siding with auto manufacturers that argue vehicle fuel efficiency standards put in place by the Obama administration will cost billions of dollars. On Thursday, he said he would move “very, very soon” to roll them back.

 If that happens, California will probably exercise its special authority, known as a waiver, to keep the current vehicle emissions standards in place, laying the groundwork for an extraordinary tug-of-war between the state and the federal EPA.

Because of the state’s formidable market power, the waiver threatens to undermine the Trump administration’s plan.

The state must cut tailpipe emissions as part of its ambitious plan to slash overall greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels over the next 13 years. Transportation is the largest source of carbon pollution in California and the nation, exceeding emissions from power plants. The sector accounts for 36 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas pollution.

“If you look at what California has done to control greenhouse gas emissions, the tailpipe rule has done the largest amount of work,” said Michael Wara, a Stanford University professor of environmental law. “So California is going to fight, to deploy every resource it has, to keep this stuff, because this is big.”

Although Pruitt has not publicly discussed California’s waiver, industry sources say it has been under intense scrutiny.

California’s ability to write its own tighter tailpipe standards was explicitly written into the federal Clean Air Act five decades ago to help the state combat smog in the Los Angeles Basin. Over the past decade, state officials worked with the Obama administration in an aggressive effort to fight climate change by squeezing emissions from gasoline-fired vehicles and begin a paradigm shift toward electric cars and other zero-emission vehicles.

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