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Trump bars California from setting stricter fuel standards

Vehicles back up for seven miles Interstate 5 on Feb. 14 in Colusa County, California. The Trump administration is poised to revoke California’s authority to set auto-mileage standards, asserting that only the federal government has the power to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions and fuel economy. (Caltrans District 3 via AP)

Vehicles back up for seven miles Interstate 5 on Feb. 14 in Colusa County, California. The Trump administration is poised to revoke California’s authority to set auto-mileage standards, asserting that only the federal government has the power to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions and fuel economy. (Caltrans District 3 via AP)

By MICHAEL BIESECKER
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that his administration is revoking California’s authority to set mileage standards stricter than those issued by federal regulators.

In a tweet, Trump said the change would result in less expensive and safer cars. He insisted that new cars would be cleaner, even as they burn more gasoline than they would have under the Obama-established fuel-efficiency standards.

“Many more cars will be produced under the new and uniform standard, meaning significantly more JOBS, JOBS, JOBS! Automakers should seize this opportunity because without this alternative to California, you will be out of business,” Trump tweeted.

However, U.S. automakers contend that, without a substantial increase in fuel efficiency, their vehicles will be less able to compete against rivals’ products, which could result in job losses.

“Automakers support year-over-year increases in fuel economy standards that align with marketplace realities, and we support one national program as the best path to preserve good auto jobs, keep new vehicles affordable for more Americans and avoid a marketplace with different standards,” said Dave Schwietert, the interim CEO and president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents Ford, General Motors and other leading U.S. auto manufactures.

Trump’s policy change comes after the Justice Department opened an antitrust investigation into a deal that, struck between California and four automakers, calls for pollution and related mileage requirements that are tougher than those sought by Trump. Trump also has sought to relax Obama-era federal mileage standards, weakening his Democratic predecessors’ attempts to slow climate change.

Top California officials and environmental groups pledged legal action to stop the rollback.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler told the National Automobile Dealers Association on Tuesday the agency’s goal is to establish one nationwide set of fuel-economy standards.

“We embrace federalism and the role of the states, but federalism does not mean that one state can dictate standards for the nation,” Wheeler said, adding that higher fuel-economy standards would hurt consumers by increasing the average sticker price of new cars and requiring automakers to produce more electric vehicles.

Word of the announcement came as Trump traveled to California on Tuesday for an overnight trip that includes GOP fundraising events near San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

California’s authority to set its own, tougher emissions standards goes back to a waiver issued by Congress during the adoption of the Clean Air Act in 1970. The state has long pushed automakers to adopt more fuel-efficient passenger vehicles that emit less pollution. A dozen states and the District of Columbia also follow California’s fuel economy standards.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the Trump administration’s action will hurt both U.S. automakers and American families. He said California would fight the administration in federal court.

“You have no basis and no authority to pull this waiver,” Becerra, a Democrat, said in a statement, referring to Trump. “We’re ready to fight for a future that you seem unable to comprehend.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the White House “has abdicated its responsibility to the rest of the world on cutting emissions and fighting global warming.”

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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