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Why California Went Around the EPA and Made a Deal with Carmakers

The EPA rejected California’s compromise deal, Bloomberg reported.

by Alex Lubben
Aug 6 2019, 4:15pm

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Negotiations broke down in the yearslong fight between the White House and California over regulating emissions, and now it’s clear why: The EPA rejected California’s compromise deal, Bloomberg reported.

The Trump administration said the deal that California brought to the table, which relaxes Obama-era fuel-efficiency standards, wasn’t “a productive alternative” to the EPA’s aggressive rollback, a California clean air board spokesperson told Bloomberg. So California went straight to four major automakers with their deal, and those companies accepted it.

California is the only state in the country with the ability to set its own standards on tailpipe emissions, and, in 2012, the Obama administration and the state worked together to set a single national standard. And since 16 other states have adopted California’s standards, those rules now apply to about 40 percent of the U.S. auto market.

After the Trump administration tried to roll back those standards last year, the state pledged to stick with the more stringent rules. But the White House abandoned discussions with the state over emissions standards, just a few weeks after the EPA rejected California’s compromise deal.

“Looking back, it seems that they were never interested in negotiations or discussions,” Stanley Young, a spokesman for the California Air Resources Board, told Bloomberg.

That’s when the state went directly to four major automakers — Ford, Honda, BMW, and Volkswagen — which all agreed to adopt California’s emissions standards. The new rules, slightly watered down from the standards set during the Obama administration, are still far stricter than those that the EPA has put forward.

In the weeks after Trump took office, many of those same companies urged the administration to relax the Obama-era tailpipe standards but have since balked at the EPA’s aggressive rollback. In June, a group of car companies urged the federal government to resume talks with the state to adopt a nationwide standard.

But the EPA is, so far, sticking to its guns. The feds have tried to make the case that less stringent emissions standards will allow consumers to buy newer, safer vehicles, and avoid traffic deaths — a claim that both former EPA staff and outside experts have refuted.

The Trump administration also wants to strip California’s ability to set its own emissions standards, through a rule it’s already proposed and is close to finalizing. California has vowed to block that move through the courts.

Cover image: The new Volkswagen Atlas was shown at the 2016 LA Auto Show on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in Los Angeles. (Carlos Delgado/AP Images for Volkswagen of America)

air quality
trump administration
fuel efficiency