State officials telegraph looming fight to proposed federal EPA rollbacks


Smog over Los Angeles, courtesy Flickr user steven-buss

Smog over Los Angeles, courtesy Flickr user steven-buss

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and state attorneys general from California and Maryland said Friday that they will vigorously fight proposed rollbacks by the EPA to federal emissions standards ahead of public hearings scheduled for next week.

"We’re not interested in taking a punch. We want to counter-punch," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Friday. 

For three days beginning Sept. 24, federal officials will hold public hearings about the proposed rollback to federal fuel-economy standards offered by President Donald Trump's administration. Included in the proposal from the EPA, which aims to freeze federal fuel-economy standards at 2020 levels through 2026, is a revocation of California's waiver to set its own emissions targets, which 12 other states and the District of Columbia currently follow.

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Connecticut and Maryland both follow California's more stringent emissions standards.

Malloy said federal officials plan only to rush through the public hearings, which are scheduled Sept. 24-26 on consecutive days, held in Frenso, California; Dearborn, Michigan; and Pittsburgh respectively. The panel of elected officials said the EPA's public comment period was unnecessarily short and frivolous. On Friday, federal regulators from the NHTSA and EPA rejected requests from state attorneys general, lawmakers, and automakers to extend the public comment period.

"They didn't have to do it that way," said Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.

Malloy and the attorneys general said automakers who pushed for the relaxed standards, then publicly distanced themselves from the proposal, share blame with the administration.

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"We’re here because the auto industry reached out to an administration to undo a deal they were part of," Becerra said.

"Maybe we should start naming hurricanes after carmakers and car models," Malloy said.

Malloy, Becerra, and Frosh said an alliance of states that follow California's emissions standards anticipate a fight in the courts, but also planned to win. Becerra said that the administration's proposal was not science-based, and revoking his state's right to set its own standards for pollution flies in the face of roughly 50 years of legal precedent.

The battle in court is expected to be a long, protracted fight that could eventually wind its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In its proposed rollbacks, dubbed the "Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule" (SAFER) Act, the Trump administration argued that lightweight, fuel-efficient vehicles would be less safe on roadways. It also argued that the cost of installing fuel-saving technology, such as turbocharging or more efficient automatic transmissions, would cost too much for consumers to bear.

Critics of those arguments point to the Energy Department's own assessment that lighter cars may not be less safe, and that increased emissions regulations haven't slowed down car sales since 2010. Last year, automakers sold more than 17 million new cars in the U.S., which was a record.

Becerra said that in addition to stopping the proposed federal rollbacks, California and other states would fight for those states' rights to set their own emissions levels.

"We’re looking forward to this fight," he said.

 
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