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Oct. 4, 2019 by Robert Glicksman, Alejandro Camacho

Trump's Decision to Hamstring California's Climate Authority Is Illogical and Uninformed

Originally published in The Revelator. Reprinted under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.

For five decades California and the federal government have worked together in an innovative exercise in federalism aimed at achieving cleaner air. California has played an important role in controlling greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, particularly from motor vehicles.

But now, contrary to law and in a massive departure from past practice, President Donald Trump has announced that his administration is pulling the rug out from under California's feet by divesting it of its longstanding authority to adopt auto emission controls more stringent than the Environmental Protection Agency's.

The action, implemented jointly by the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Administration, couldn't come at a worse time. Less than a year ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change called "ambitious mitigation actions" indispensable to limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoiding the most disruptive and potentially irreversible effects of climate change.

California, supported by more than 20 other states, is already challenging the administration in court. But if the administration's effort succeeds, the world will be deprived of California's vital leadership, and the Trump administration will have shelved another important tool …

Sept. 9, 2019 by Daniel Farber
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Originally published on Legal Planet.

Prompting rage by President Trump, California and several carmakers entered into a voluntary agreement on carbon emissions from new cars that blew past the administration's efforts to repeal existing federal requirements. Last week, the Trump administration slapped back at California. Although there's been a lot of editorializing about that response, I've seen very little about the legal dimensions of the administration's actions. I'd like to shed a little bit of light on those.

The administration took two separate actions. First, the Department of Transportation and EPA sent a letter arguing that California's action appeared to violate the federal statutes governing CAFE (fuel efficiency) and emissions standards for new vehicles. Second, the Justice Department opened an antitrust probe of the car companies themselves. How strong are the government's legal positions?

Let's start with the DOT/EPA letter. The Clean Air Act and the …

March 13, 2019 by Daniel Farber
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Originally published on Legal Planet.

Usually, you'd expect a regulated industry to applaud an effort to lighten its regulatory burdens. So you would think that the car industry would support Trump's effort to roll back fuel efficiency standards for new vehicles and take away California's authority to set its own vehicle standards. But that effort is being met by silence in some cases and vocal opposition in others. According to E&E News, "senior officials from EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration . . . told automakers to support the rollback or risk angering President Trump by siding with California's more stringent tailpipe emissions rules. But since the call, not one automaker has issued a statement of support." Some, like Ford, remain openly opposed to the rollback, which attempts to freeze federal fuel efficiency standards and oust California from setting its own standards.

One reason for the industry's …

Jan. 24, 2019 by Daniel Farber
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Originally published on Legal Planet.

The Trump administration has many energy and environmental initiatives, none of them good. But in terms of shoddy analysis and tenuous evidence, the worst is the administration's attempt to freeze fuel efficiency standards. For sheer lack of professionalism, the administration's cost-benefit analysis is hard to match. And you can't even say that the administration is captive to industry, because this isn't something industry asked for. It's a case of untethered ideology trumping evidence and economics.

By way of background, §202 of the Clean Air Act requires EPA to impose standards for emissions from new motor vehicles once it has found that a pollutant endangers human health or welfare. During the Obama administration, EPA issued such standards for greenhouse gases, in tandem with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, pronounced 'nitsa'), which regulates fuel efficiency standards for vehicles. The car industry was …

Nov. 1, 2018 by Hannah Wiseman
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This post was originally published on ACSblog, the blog of the American Constitution Society. Reprinted with permission.

On October 26, 2018, the comment period ended for a new rule that guts U.S. fuel efficiency standards for vehicles. If the final rule resembles the proposed rule, the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks (SAFE Vehicles Rule) will lock in old fuel efficiency standards, reversing Obama administration regulations mandating increased efficiency. Specifically, the "preferred alternative" expressed by the Trump administration's EPA is to keep 2020 standards for both passenger vehicles and light trucks through 2026, replacing current regulations that required enhanced efficiency during the six-year period. Further, the rule proposes to remove California's existing authorization to regulate carbon emissions from cars, preempting both California's regulation and other states that have adopted standards identical to California's.

This blunt about-face in …

Oct. 25, 2018 by Alice Kaswan
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This op-ed originally ran in the Fresno Bee.

Cities in the San Joaquin Valley continue to land among the American Lung Association's top 10 most polluted communities in the country. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the comment period closed on the Trump administration's plans to ratchet back federal emissions standards and eliminate California's authority to run its crucial car emissions programs. Although the administration has its eyes on greenhouse gas controls, what's at stake is California's ability to transition to low- and zero-emission vehicles, a transition essential to reducing the pollutants that threaten public health in California and elsewhere in the nation.

The federal government has the primary authority to set automobile pollution standards under the Clean Air Act. But Congress — recognizing California's serious air pollution challenges — stipulated that California is entitled to a "waiver" that lets the state set stricter standards, and which gives other states the option …

Oct. 3, 2018 by Melissa Powers
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As Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis, and Chris Mooney of The Washington Post reported on September 27, the Trump administration seems to finally be acknowledging that climate change is real. But the motivation for recognizing that reality is cynical, at best, so rather than proposing doing something – anything – about climate change, the administration concludes we shouldn't bother trying. 

Buried in a 500-page justification for a rule that would prevent California (and, by extension, other states) from regulating emissions of greenhouse gases from new vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that any regulation of greenhouse gases would be futile because climate models show that global temperatures will increase by up to 7 degrees Fahrenheit no matter how the United States behaves. 

For years, many conservatives have denied that climate change is real and that humans have caused climate change by burning fossil fuels. Even as global …

Aug. 9, 2018 by Joel Mintz
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This op-ed originally ran in The Hill.

Federal laws and regulations play a crucial role determining the quality of our air, water, and natural resources. Well-researched and scientifically supported rules can bring enormous benefits to the American people, but regulatory rollbacks for little more than deregulation's sake can cause great harm.

One example of the potential damage that a poorly crafted regulation may cause is the new proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to roll back a requirement that automobile manufacturers improve vehicle fuel efficiency in the first half of the 2020s. With the rise of wind and solar energy, and the ongoing shift from coal-fired to natural-gas-fired power plants, motor vehicles are now the leading U.S. source of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change — along with other harmful air pollutants. If left in place, the …

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