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State attorney general vows to fight Trump’s fuel economy plan

LOS ANGELES — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra vowed to fight the Trump administration’s newly released fuel economy plan, which would freeze current miles-per-gallon standards at 2020 levels through 2025, rolling back some clean air standards put in place by the Obama administration.

Federal officials also said that they plan to strip California of the state’s authority to set its own automotive emissions rules, which are generally tougher than federal standards for the rest of the country.

“California is about progress and 21st century technology … not about backsliding,” Becerra said on the campus of UCLA Aug. 2. “If we stop innovating on energy solutions, we’ll find ourselves importing our competitors’ technology and exporting American jobs. That’s why when it comes to cleaner vehicles, the state of California has been the leader, bar none, for the last several decades.”

Becerra is part of a coalition of 19 attorneys general trying to defend the clean air standards put in place by the Obama administration, which required automakers to build passenger vehicles with an average of about 54 miles per gallon by 2025, which would about double the current average.

Administration officials said their new plan would better protect consumers.

“We are delivering on President Trump’s promise to the American public that his administration would address and fix the current fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards,” Andrew Wheeler, acting chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, said in a statement Aug. 2. “Our proposal aims to strike the right regulatory balance based on the most recent information and create a 50-state solution that will enable more Americans to afford newer, safer vehicles that pollute less.”

Wheeler and Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in a published article in the Wall Street Journal that the Obama-era standards would “impose significant costs on American consumers and eliminate jobs.” They also argued the standards “implemented by the previous administration raised the cost and decreased the supply of newer, safer vehicles,” and that removing the standards would save lives.

Many top California officials, however, blasted the plan.

“At first glance, this proposal completely misrepresents costs and savings,” California Air Resources Board Chair Mary D. Nichols said. “It also relies on bizarre assumptions about consumer behavior to make its case on safety.”

Nichols said her agency would examine all 978 pages of fine print to figure out how the Trump administration can possibly justify its absurd conclusion that weakening standards to allow dirtier, less efficient vehicles will actually save lives and money.

“California remains fully committed to a rigorous 50-state program with a full range of vehicle choices,” Nichols added. “That program is in effect right now and will remain so for the foreseeable future.”

State officials said they would defend California’s authority to set its own fuel efficiency rules.

“For Trump to now destroy a law first enacted at the request of Ronald Reagan five decades ago is a betrayal and an assault on the health of Americans everywhere,” Gov. Jerry Brown said. “Under his reckless scheme, motorists will pay more at the pump, get worse gas mileage and breathe dirtier air. California will fight this stupidity in every conceivable way possible.”

According to EPA Assistant Administrator Bill Wehrum, however, “There’s nothing about how greenhouse gases and potential climate change affects California that’s any different than any other state in the country,” adding that “there’s no justification for California to have its own standards.”

“Having said that, this is just a proposed rule, and on the other hand we are committed to working with California to try to find a mutually agreeable set of regulations.”

The Trump administration’s plan also was criticized by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and hundreds of other climate mayors, a national coalition of 407 U.S. mayors dedicated to pursuing environmental initiatives.

“We cannot sacrifice the future of our planet on the altar of short-sighted and dangerous policies that serve narrow interests,” Garcetti said. “Extremely narrow interests: Automakers, consumers and environmentalists agree that this rollback on progress helps no one and never should have seen the light of day. Their proposal directly threatens to stall the progress we have made in Los Angeles to take toxic fumes out of our air.”

The climate mayors said the group plans to submit public comment on the Trump administration’s proposal.

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