Trump says revoking California emissions rule will make cars ‘SAFER’

President Donald Trump moved to rescind California’s unique authority to set its own air pollution rules on Wednesday, tweeting that a lower nationwide standard on fuel emissions would make cars safer and “extremely environmentally friendly.”

The president announced the long-anticipated action while on a fundraising trip to Los Angeles. California Governor Gavin Newsom has vowed to fight the administration’s action in court.

Within weeks, the Trump administration is expected to publish a national federal rule that significantly weakens Obama-era standards for tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas fueling climate change.

“The Trump administration is revoking California’s federal waiver on emissions in order to produce far less expensive cars for the consumer, while at the same time making the cars substantially SAFER,” the president wrote on Twitter. “This will lead to more production because of this pricing and safety advantage, and also due to the fact that older, highly polluting cars, will be replaced by new, extremely environmentally friendly cars.”

For months, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency has argued older cars are unsafe — and that California’s high standards will lead to such high vehicle prices that people will hang onto their older cars for longer periods. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told car dealers in a speech on Tuesday that drivers in vehicles aged 8 years and older are at least 20 percent more likely to get killed in an accident compared to those driving cars 3 years old or newer.

“Revising the standards and reducing the price of new vehicles will save lives,” Wheeler said.

But Sacramento has pushed back that, while cars will become more expensive, consumers will actually save money because they will be spending less on gasoline. Their standards are safer, the state government adds, because the air will be cleaner.

Automakers that initially complained to the Trump administration in 2017 about the Obama standards grew concerned in the last year by how far the White House wants to go. Industry leaders tried to broker negotiations between California and Washington that ultimately broke down in February.

Four of the largest automakers infuriated the president in July when they joined the California Air Resources Board in a deal to reduce carbon emissions at a far swifter rate than the Trump administration wants.

In his tweets on Wednesday, Trump said that automakers would go “out of business” if they fail to fall in line.

“There will be very little difference in emissions between the California Standard and the new U.S. Standard, but the cars will be far safer and much less expensive,” Trump continued. “Many more cars will be produced under the new and uniform standard, meaning significantly more JOBS, JOBS, JOBS! Automakers should seize this opportunity because without this alternative to California, you will be out of business.”

During a press conference in Sacramento on Wednesday, Newsom and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra promised legal action against the Trump administration.

“This was a demonstrable move to assert power and dominance, an aggressive move against the state,” Newsom said. “I’m confident we’ll prevail, eventually. It’ll take years and years and years. More uncertainty, more anxiety, but California will prevail.”

Newsom also said the roll back of fuel efficiency standards will disadvantage the companies in the global market. He said Trump’s decision had little to do with protecting the car manufacturers and the economy, and was rather a defense of the oil industry.

“Every single one of these companies know where the consumer is going and where the world is going,” he said. “That’s the elimination of the internal combustion engine. Every one of these automakers have to compete not only domestically, but globally.”

Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, said conversations with automakers who had considered joining the deal have now stalled. Newsom alleged their hesitance was due to direct threats from the Trump administration to refuse a pact with California.

Wheeler and Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao plan to formally announce the decision at an event hosted by the EPA on Thursday morning.

Sacramento Bee staff writer Dale Kasler contributed to this report.

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Michael Wilner joined McClatchy as its White House correspondent in 2019. He previously served as Washington bureau chief for The Jerusalem Post, where he led coverage of the Iran nuclear talks, the Syrian refugee crisis and the 2016 US presidential campaign. Wilner holds degrees from Claremont McKenna College and Columbia University and is a native of New York City.
Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.