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California moves to protect auto emissions rules from Trump rollback

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California regulators on Friday voted to require that automakers must still comply with Obama-era federal vehicle emissions standards for cars sold in the state regardless of Trump administration efforts to weaken the standards.

The move was the latest in running political clashes between the most populous U.S. state and President Donald Trump’s administration over issues ranging from climate change to immigration.

The California Air Resources Board, the state’s air quality regulator, affirmed a provision in its greenhouse gas vehicle regulation that establishes that only cars meeting current federal standards for model years 2017 through 2025 comply with the state’s standards and can be sold there.

The vote took place at the board’s monthly meeting in Sacramento.

The Trump administration proposed last month to freeze federal fuel efficiency requirements at 2020 levels through 2026. In that proposal, the administration claimed stricter emissions standards make vehicles more expensive and less safe, a stance the EPA’s own staff and data disputed.

California’s position is nationally significant because the state is the largest U.S. auto market and boasts the nation’s most aggressive policies to address climate change.

Also, a dozen states and the District of Columbia have adopted California’s emissions rules, accounting for more than a third of all U.S. vehicle sales.

California has long been allowed under a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency waiver to set its own, stricter vehicle emissions rules to fight heavy smog in Los Angeles and other urban areas. The Trump administration has proposed revoking that authority, something that could cast doubt on the state’s powers to sidestep federal standards.

In a statement, CARB Chair Mary Nichols said the state would “continue to work to keep a single national program,” but that the vote “ensures that California and 12 other states will not fall victim to the Trump administration’s rollback of vehicle standards should its proposal be finalized.”

Automakers have urged California and the administration to reach agreement, rather than face years of uncertainty. Automakers want looser emissions standards because consumers now favor bigger cars that use more fuel.

Reporting by Nichola Groom

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