California’s Clean Air Battle Will Be ‘A Long And Messy Court Fight’

The state is set to defend Obama-era regulations on emissions and fuel economy.

By Rhonda FanningJuly 24, 2018 2:48 pm,

The Trump administration is expected to roll-back Obama-era regulations this week that curb greenhouse gas emissions. It also intends to revoke California’s authority to regulate its own automobile emissions, sparking what will likely be a lengthy court battle.

Thomas McGarity is a professor of law at The University of Texas at Austin. He has written extensively about administrative and environmental law. He says in the early ’70s, California and 12 other states received waivers to set their own emissions standards, and this agreement was updated during the last decade.

“California and the EPA got together back in 2009 and agreed that California would adhere to the nationally applicable standards, as long the EPA didn’t amend them to make them less stringent,” McGarity says. “And that’s exactly what the EPA is proposing to do now.”

If the Trump administration successfully strips California of its nationally applicable standards waiver, it will appear as though it’s bucking the general trend of Republicans backing state’s rights.

“This entirely antithetical to federalism that is to allow states to have their own say over local issues,” McGarity says.

California is certain to file a lawsuit to defend its ability to set its own fuel and emissions standards.

There is a possibility that the state will be able to retain the Obama-era statute that would require all cars to run at 50 miles per gallon by 2025. While the Trump administration is trying to renege on that rule, a statute exists that allows the Department of Transportation, along with the EPA, to set fuel economy standards. Whether California can argue that economy standards and emissions are tied will determine the overall outcome of the case.

“It’s going to be an interesting battle because it’s going to go to California’s authority,” McGarity says. “This is going to be a long and messy court fight.”


Written by Kevin Wheeler