California lashes back against Trump's effort to curb car-regulation authority

The move by President Trump to revoke California’s authority to set its own tailpipe-emissions standards and require some zero-emission vehicles sparked legal action Friday.

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A group of 23 states, including California, are suing to block the determination unveiled by the U.S. Transportation Department and its National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that federal law bars California from setting its own rules for how much pollution can come from cars and trucks.

Federal law sets standards for how much pollution can come from cars and trucks. But since the 1970s, California was given permission to set its own rules because it has the most cars on the road of any state and struggles to meet air quality standards.

"The Oval Office is really not a place for on-the-job training. President Trump should have at least read the instruction manual he inherited when he assumed the presidency, in particular the chapter on respecting the rule of law," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who sued the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration a day after the regulation was unveiled.

The decision was intended to block the state from working with automakers to keep the market standard for automobile emissions stricter than the Trump administration's rules. Those rules, however, will let manufacturers "produce far less expensive cars for the consumer, while at the same time making the cars substantially SAFER," Trump tweeted Wednesday. "This will lead to more production because of this pricing and safety advantage, and also due to the fact that older, highly polluting cars, will be replaced by new, extremely environmentally friendly cars."

The changes won’t take effect for another 60 days, giving state officials time to prepare a lawsuit. But the litigation will be complex and could last for years.

In the meantime, California regulators in charge of reducing pollutants are considering toughening limits on refinery emissions and imposing “roadway pricing” — which includes charging higher tolls during rush hour in the hopes of keeping cars off the road.

The Trump administration's decision does not just affect California. Thirteen other states, plus the District of Columbia, have adopted California's emission rules for cars and trucks. States joining California in the lawsuit are attorneys general from: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.

The cities of New York and Los Angeles also joined the lawsuit.


The Associated Press contributed to this article.