President Donald Trump’s directive on Wednesday to extend the fuel economy and emissions review period, and possibly weaken the rules, is not being accepted in California.
The California Air Resources Board is meeting Mar. 23-24, and is expected to finalize the state’s clean car policy for 2022-2025.
Automakers were thrilled with Trump’s announcement, and will be following comments from the new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt. The EPA administrator said the agency will review the rules.
Pruitt is expected to stay in line with past legal actions as Oklahoma’s attorney general attempting to rein in the power of the EPA on emissions rules.
California had been given flexibility by the White House and automakers as the fuel economy and emissions rules and timing were finalized in 2012.
By 2025, 1.5 million zero emissions vehicles – battery electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles – are required to be on California’s roads under the mandate, and 12 others states have adopted that policy. The rule was later clarified by states to allow for counting all ZEVs sold in California and the other 12 states into the target’s total.
Industry trade group Auto Alliance has sued the EPA to overturn its rules. The automaker’s association said it will cost the companies far too much and could see severe job cuts by automakers.
California’s attorney general has requested that the court allow the state defend the Obama regulations.
Leading state officials have made it clear they’re not going to back down. Governor Jerry Brown has made statements about keeping California’s clean car policy in effect no matter what President Trump decides to do.
California Gov. Jerry Brown has promised to lead the fight to stop Trump from weakening environmental rules, a stance echoed by Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols.
CARB chair Mary Nichols has also been vocal about it.
“We intend to stick by the commitments that we made. If for some reason the federal government and the industry decide to abandon those agreements that we all reached, we will have to re-examine our options,” she said. “If the issue is are they going to relax the standards, then we would vehemently oppose that.”
Federal law prohibits states from setting their own vehicle emissions rules, except for California, which can seek waivers to federal policy under the Clean Air Act.
California has a waiver for the plan through 2025, and its plan has been close enough to the federal rules to have been accepted in 2012. Automakers had hoped sales of battery electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles would be strong enough in California to meet the stricter standards. So far, that has been the case.
California is expected to hold automakers to the targets and enforce its rules independently. It’s yet to be clear how the federal government will handle it.
Trump’s comments yesterday were silent about California’s clean car rules.
Automakers have been pleading to have a national policy in place to avoid having to invest in differing practices for states outside the national standard.
Oil companies have fought California’s policies for year with its strict environmental policies and leading the way on fuel blends.