The Trump administration is expected as early as Thursday to propose revoking California's power to set state vehicle emissions rules, a government official briefed on the matter said.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are expected to propose an end to the 2009 waiver that gave California the right to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars and mandate that auto companies reach a quota of electric vehicles sold, according to Bloomberg News. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said that he is "ready to use every legal tool at our disposal to protect the current vehicle emission standards".
The proposal would also freeze federal requirements on fuel economy at a fleet-average 35 miles per gallon by 2020, rather than allowing that figure to climb to 50 mpg by 2025 as it is now set to do. Yet the federal government, under Obama, already approved California's emission standards - and the underlying fuel standards - for vehicle model years 2017 through 2025.
The expected proposal comes four months after former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt officially declared the emissions standards embraced by the Obama administration, which granted California the waiver, "not appropriate".
The proposed revamp would also put the brakes on federal rules to boost fuel efficiency into the next decade, said the people, who asked to not be identified discussing the proposals before they are public. Reuters reported previously that the Transportation Department plans to assert in the proposal that California is also barred from setting emissions rules under a 1975 EPA law.
To combat California's well-known smog problems, over the years, the golden state enacted some of the strictest emission standards for motor vehicles in the state, even going as far as requesting a waiver from the EPA to set its own fuel economy standards, which are tougher than what the federal government mandates. Jerry Brown did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
The state's ability to set its own rules has also let to regulations that many in the trucking industry have found onerous.
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California and other states have already fired a warning shot.
The Trump administration proposal will seek to reverse planned hikes in fuel efficiency standards adopted by the Obama administration. California Air Resources Board head Mary Nichols declined to comment.
"We have the law on our side, as well as the people of the country and the people of the world", said Dan Sperling, a member of the state's Air Resources Board.
And a long legal fight between the state and federal governments could make it hard for the automakers to plan, since the process of designing, engineering and introducing a new auto typically takes more than three years, Brauer said.
"One of the reasons they've been somewhat quiet is because they're torn, " said Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and KBB.com, speaking of the vehicle companies. Although California argues its rules are not fuel economy standards in word or practice, "they are very much related to fuel economy", Holmstead said.
"It will be a giant case", Sivas said, adding that multiple states will join California in suing the federal government.