President Donald Trump’s proposed rollback of Obama-era fuel economy and emissions standards for passenger cars and trucks will force people to breathe dirtier air and dramatically increase greenhouse gas emissions, a pair of state attorneys general said Wednesday.
“Any American who drives or breathes should oppose the administration’s actions,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said on a conference call with reporters.
Rolling back auto efficiency and emissions standards will also increase the amount of money that drivers pay at the pump, Madigan said. The Trump administration’s proposed rule will take money “out of the pockets of drivers and give it to Big Oil,” she emphasized.
After releasing the plan in August, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the public 60 days to comment on the proposed rule. The so-called SAFE rule would freeze fuel efficiency standards for cars, trucks, and SUVs at the 2020 level through 2026.
The attorneys general argued that the auto industry has few reasons to support Trump’s proposed rule. Every class of vehicle in the United States is seeing record fuel economy levels, with the most popular vehicle classes showing the greatest improvement since the Obama rules went into effect in 2012. This rollback threatens to put all of that in jeopardy, Madigan said.
For California and the rest of the nation, continuing to improve vehicle fuel efficiency and emissions standards is not only about addressing climate change; it’s also about improving air quality, especially in lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color that are disproportionately affected by vehicle emissions, Becerra said.
A group of 19 states, including California and Illinois, intends to submit comments in opposition to the proposed rule ahead of the Friday deadline.
The administration contends that people who do not buy new fuel-efficient cars for cost reasons risk injury and death because new model cars will be even safer than the cars currently on the road.
— State Impact Center (@StateImpactCntr) October 24, 2018
Becerra said he’s still waiting to see the evidence and research that led the EPA and NHTSA to reach those conclusions.
“There is no question that the Trump administration is making dubious claims about safety, Madigan said.
In September, Becerra, California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols, and California EPA Secretary Matthew Rodriquez spoke with federal officials at a public hearing in Fresno, California.
Representatives of the EPA and NHTSA sat at a panel on a stage, while dozens of officials, electric car proponents, and public health experts mostly expressed opposition to the Trump administration’s proposed changes to federal fuel economy standards.
In a letter sent to acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler last week, 68 House members urged the agency to halt plans they say could severely impact public health.
Under the Clean Air Act, California has historically been allowed to set its own air pollution standards for new motor vehicles if granted an EPA waiver. The state’s stronger standards have been adopted by 12 states and the District of Columbia, which the letter’s signatories argue collectively represent more than 35 percent of the U.S. population and 1 in every 3 cars sold in the country.
According to Becerra, the EPA does not have the authority to revoke California’s waiver. “There’s no doubt that for decades California has operated with waivers in this environmental space,” he said. “The legal weight is behind California.”