Trump administration backs away from fight over California's power to set rules for cars and trucks

This page last updated on 06/19/17

The Trump administration is backing off its threat to revoke California’s unique authority to set its own tough pollution standards for cars and trucks — rules that have become a crucial tool for states to combat climate change without help from Washington.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt assured lawmakers on Thursday that his agency is not currently looking to take away the power that California has used for decades to reduce emissions that cause smog and heat up the planet.

Earlier this year, Pruitt had suggested that the Trump administration might try to weaken or revoke California’s authority, which would have put Washington on a collision course with the state over a crucial environmental issue.

But asked about the subject Thursday at a House hearing on the EPA’s budget, Pruitt struck a very different tone, praising California for “leadership” on clean air.

“Currently the waiver is not under review," Pruitt said, referring to the legal rubric under which the state is allowed to waive federal rules and impose its own. "This has been something that has been granted going back to the beginning of the Clean Air Act because of the leadership California demonstrated.”

Bill Magavern, policy director for the Los Angeles-based Coalition for Clean Air, said the testimony was “a rare bit of good news out of the Trump administration.”

California’s standards have been adopted by a dozen other states, as permitted under the Clean Air Act. Those rules help form the basis for the effort by Democratic-run states and cities to continue to fulfill the U.S. commitments under the Paris accord on climate change, which the Trump administration recently quit.

Meeting those goals will be difficult without the federal government behind the effort. Without California’s waiver authority, environmental experts say, getting there would probably be impossible.

“You start messing around with this, and the ability for states to address climate pollution starts falling apart,” said Simon Mui, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Read the entire article at LATimes.com

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