President Donald Trump’s administration is expected to announce Wednesday that it will revoke California’s legal authority to set its own auto emissions standards, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
The state has been in an ongoing legal fight with the Trump administration for the last year over its right to that waiver, which has major influence on the manufacturing of all cars sold in the U.S.
The revocation has long been expected as part of Trump’s effort to roll back former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which mandates that automakers double the fuel economy of all new cars and light trucks. However, sources familiar with the decision told the Times that this is the only confirmed change as Trump’s policymakers have struggled to find legal and scientific justification for the full overhaul.
The federal government has sanctioned California’s waiver for nearly 50 years, and 13 other states also follow California’s car pollution standards. In June, Canada ended two decades of aligning itself with U.S. fuel standards and signed on to California’s rules.
Trump’s impending announcement comes on the heels of his spat with major automakers, four of which reached a voluntary agreement with California on fuel efficiency rules. Trump derided them on Twitter last month as “politically correct Automobile Companies” with “foolish executives.”
The move is the latest salvo in what some now call the Trump administration’s war on states’ rights, inverting a well-worn Republican talking point.
The conservative movement’s rhetoric on states’ rights took shape during the 1960s, when federalism became a euphemistic proxy for the fight over desegregation. But, particularly under Obama’s administration, Republicans seized on states’ rights to push back against efforts to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.
Yet for all the Trump administration’s talk of making states the “laboratories of democracy once again,” the EPA is putting aggressive curbs on states’ power to enact stricter pollution rules.
In June, the agency issued a new legal guidance that seeks to restrict how states can use a specific provision of the Clean Water Act to deny permits to oil and gas pipelines. In July, the EPA proposed eliminating a rule that allowed individuals or community groups to contest agency-issued pollution permits before a panel of judges.
“States don’t always do the appropriate thing,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said that month at a conference at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Now, more than a year after it first threatened to revoke California’s waiver, the agency looks set to make good on that promise. But it may not hold up. A New York University School of Law report last year found that the EPA lacks the legal authority to withdraw the congressionally-granted waiver, and no president has ever tried.