SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A fight over vehicle efficiency standards may lead to a crisis over state and federal rights, as well as the wishes of corporations, according to reporting from Reuters.
In response to plans from the Trump administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to roll back vehicle efficiency requirements across the country, California's attorney general has threatened to sue in order to keep those policies.
“We are going to do everything that can been done to defend these standards,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to Reuters. “So far, when we have been challenged on environmental standards we have had a good record in court. We haven’t lost a case.”
Becerra is responding to reports that the EPA will announce by April 1 that current rules intended to double average fleet-wide fuel efficiency to 50 miles per-gallon are "not appropriate."
The current regulations came from the Obama administration, who reportedly earned the blessing of auto manufacturers. Nevertheless, the same automakers are concerned that California's split with the Trump EPA could lead to different states setting their own standards, creating a wide variety of restrictions across the country.
California is the most highly-populated U.S. state and a large market for automakers—and where they go, many states will follow.
The Obama-era policies on vehicle efficiency sprung from a 2011 agreement between California's air emissions regulator, the EPA, and major automakers. They agreed to strive for doubling fuel efficiency by 2025, with a provision to conduct a "midterm review" by April 2018 to determine whether the goal was possible.
"California doesn't have the authority to set the standards for the rest of the country," said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to Reuters in January. EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman has confirmed that the Obama-era policies are currently under interagency review, and a recommendation will be made by April 1.
Becerra has said that he is confident courts will side with California if the EPA attempts to weaken federal standards, or tries to remove the state's authority under the Clean Air Act to set its own, independent standards.
"We are not yet at round one, and we think we have some good knockout punches for the next rounds," Becerra said.