Sorry California, You Don’t Get to Choose What Vehicles the Rest of America Can Drive

“The Administration’s efforts to reform this ill-conceived and wickedly regressive mandate will save consumers and workers money, preserve their choices, and ensure that the federal government, and not California, sets national policy.” 

WASHINGTON DC (September 18, 2019) – The American Energy Alliance (AEA) supports President Trump’s federal action to revoke the previous administration’s decision to allow California to set fuel mandates and environmental policy for the rest of the nation.

Tom Pyle, AEA President, issued the following statement in reaction to today’s tweet thread from @RealDonaldTrump:

“We commend President Trump on his decision to ensure that consumers can make the decisions about what cars and trucks they should buy.  While there are some who would rather have those decisions made by bureaucrats in California, we believe that workers, consumers, and families can and should be trusted to make decisions that affect their lives.
“The Administration’s efforts to reform this ill-conceived and wickedly regressive mandate will save consumers money, preserve their choices, and ensure that the federal government, and not California, sets national fuel efficiency policy.
“It’s simple.  The State of California should not be able – as it has been – to determine what kinds of cars are sold in other states.  Moreover, consumers should pay for their own cars and not be compelled by a regulatory scheme to pay for the choices of others.
“As we have noted before, the existing unlawful mandate makes cars more expensive​.​ To meet the mandate, automakers often have to sell smaller, less desirable cars at a discount, while increasing prices on the cars people want to buy, like trucks, SUVs, and crossovers. This is a very real and regressive tax on American workers and families that makes consumers poorer and the economy weaker.

“Today’s message to California is that that they’re just like everyone else. The administration’s action puts power back into the hands of drivers, not California bureaucrats, saving American families money, and reestablishes the states’ and the federal government’s proper roles with respect to fuel efficiency.

“Reforming the CAFE mandate is not about doing a favor for automakers, it’s about looking after average American workers, consumers, and families.

Common misconceptions about California’s unlawful waiver:

  • The administration is only withdrawing the Clean Air Act (CAA) waiver for tailpipe greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions granted by the Obama administration, as well as the related approval of the state’s zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate.
  • The administration is not withdrawing the numerous other CAA waivers granted over the decades applying to pollutants or other emissions sources.

This decision is well-grounded in law, in fact it was the Obama administration’s granting of the GHG tailpipe waiver that was unlawful:

  • The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, created by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) in 1975 in reaction to the Arab fuel embargo, mandates higher fuel efficiency for vehicles towards the goal of reducing U.S. reliance on foreign oil. The EPCA expressly preempts states from establishing their own fuel economy standards, or any regulations “relating to” fuel economy.[1]
  • The CAA, passed in 1970, includes a mandate for the regulation of tailpipe emissions of vehicles. Under the CAA, federal air standards also generally preempt state level standards. CAA does allow the state of California to seek a waiver of federal preemption in order to impose more stringent air standards under certain circumstances.[2]  This is permitted when the emissions cause a problem locally specific to California (e.g. smog in Los Angeles).
  • GHG emissions are directly related to fuel economy, practically one for one.  There is no catalytic convertor for GHGs, the only way to reduce tailpipe GHG emissions is to reduce fuel consumption.  Additionally, GHGs are not local to California, GHGs dissipate fairly uniformly throughout the atmosphere globally.Thus the CAA waiver does not apply for GHGs, rather the EPCA state preemption under CAFE standards applies.  The Bush administration correctly denied California’s CAA tailpipe GHG waiver request, and the Obama administration incorrectly reversed that decision.

This is not about state’s rights:

  • This is not a federalism issue.  Only one state, California, is permitted to make special rules under the Clean Air Act.  Those rules were then imposed on the rest of the country by the Obama administration through its merging of the Clean Air Act waiver with the federally preempted CAFE rulemaking process.
  • California’s ZEV mandate, which is only possible because of this unlawful waiver, also impacts all other states.  Because the ZEV mandate is fleet wide, carmakers sell electric vehicles at a loss in California to meet the mandate while charging the rest of the country higher prices for pick-up trucks and SUVs to cover the loss.
  • One state taxing and regulating the rest of the country is not federalism.

For more information:

  • Our July 11th coalition letter urging President Trump to stay the course on CAFE reform from 30 national and state groups can be read here.
  • For more information on the President Trump’s CAFE reform, click here.
  • To view AEA’s latest public opinion research on the topic, click here.

[1] 49 U.S.C. §32919

[2] 42 U.S.C. §7543(b)

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