SACRAMENTO- Following an unprecedented step by the Trump Administration to weaken federal vehicle fuel efficiency standards, California State Senate Democrats have written a letter to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra offering strong support for decisive legal action to intervene on the state’s behalf.
The Trump Administration on Wednesday issued an executive order reopening review of the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards finalized in 2012 under President Obama. These standards, modeled after California’s pioneering tailpipe emissions standards (AB 1493, Pavley), have helped save Americans billions of dollars in avoided fuel costs while reducing toxic air pollution.
“Weakening fuel efficiency standards amounts to a taxpayer giveaway to oil companies,” Senate Leader de Leon said. “Why does President Trump want Americans to give more of their hard-earned money to ExxonMobil and OPEC?”
The 22 Democratic Senators offered their support to Attorney General Becerra’s intervention in a federal suit against the Environmental Protection Agency by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, announced in coordination with the President’s executive order, challenging the feasibility of the current fuel efficiency standards.
Multiple reports suggest the Trump Administration may also attempt to withhold California’s waiver under Section 209 of the Federal Clean Air Act to pursue air quality standards that are more stringent than federal law requires.
Even before the federal Clean Air Act was enacted in 1970, California had already begun its pioneering efforts to reduce smog and air pollution from the transportation sector. Congress and the President acknowledged and supported California’s efforts by enacting Section 209 of the Federal Clean Air Act, which grants California unique authority to set its own vehicular pollution control standards if granted a waiver by the US EPA.
Over the past 50 years, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, over 145 waivers have been granted to California to pursue tougher standards, in recognition of the fact that our state continues to have regions suffering the worst pollution in the country.
“California’s right to pursue strong clean air standards is explicitly granted by federal law,” Senate Leader Kevin de León said. “If this administration has a problem with that, they can go through Congress or see us in court.”
“Trump’s Administration seems on the verge of Making America Polluted Again,” said Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), chair of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. “Rather than raising the bar to challenge America’s innovators by putting their ingenuity to work building 21st century vehicles, he’s waving the flag of surrender on climate change, and guaranteeing more people will suffer from dirtier air, higher asthma rates and respiratory problems.”
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has worked closely with the fossil fuel industry throughout his career to undermine critical environmental protections. The relationship is so close that Mr. Pruitt’s office has been known to directly copy industry language into official agency correspondence.