So Much For States' Rights: Trump Takes Aim at California's Successful Auto Emissions Standards

An electric car plugged in and charging at an eVgo electric vehicle charging station in a parking lot in Dublin, California, June 20, 2018.

The Trump administration is set this week to propose a rollback of California's highly successful auto emissions standards, in a move that could result in yet another sweeping environmental anti-regulatory measure.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are expected to propose an end to the 2009 waiver that gave California the right to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars and mandate that car companies reach a quota of electric vehicles sold, according to Bloomberg News.

The expected proposal comes four months after former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt officially declared the emissions standards embraced by the Obama administration, which granted California the waiver, "not appropriate."

California's stringent emissions rules have caught on across the country, with states including New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington adopting the requirements. A number of states and the District of Columbia joined with California in suing the Trump administration this spring as it announced it would reconsider the state's waiver.

"We have the law on our side, as well as the people of the country and the people of the world," Dan Sperling, a member of California's Air Resources Board, told Bloomberg.

Despite Trump's claims that environmental regulations harm the economy and jobs, Jim Dalyrmple noted at Buzzfeed News earlier this month, California's economy has actually grown amid its strict enforcement of rules aimed at reducing emissions that contribute to the climate crisis:

This week, the California Air Resources Control Board (CARB) announced the state had reduced its carbon emissions by 13% percent since 2004, dropping below 1990 levels for the first time, and reaching its target four years early.

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But perhaps even more significantly, California managed to reduce its pollution emissions while simultaneously growing its economy at a faster rate than the U.S. as a whole. According to CARB, California's economy grew 26 percent since 2004, when emissions peaked.

"The reduction in carbon has not significantly impaired the economy in any way," Jim Bushnell, an economist at the University of California-Davis, told Buzzfeed.

The Trump administration will also put forth a plan to weaken fuel efficiency rules put in place by President Barack Obama, who aimed to require automakers to sell cars with an average of fuel efficiency of 50 miles per gallon by 2025, according to Bloomberg. Trump would allow car companies to stop improving efficiency after 2020, when federal law mandates only 35-mile-per-gallon requirements.

On social media, some noted that Trump's attack on California's ability to regulate emissions on its own roads flies in the face of conservative arguments in favor of "states' rights"—often invoked in debates over states' ability to regulate abortion access and LGBTQ rights, as well as racial integration and slavery in the past.

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