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Trump administration may let California keep emissions standards

By Carolyn Lochhead
July 9, 2017 Updated: July 9, 2017 9:17pm

Photo: Noah Berger, Special To The Chronicle

California’s auto emissions rules set the standard for automakers. The Trump administration appears likely to back off on challenging them.

The Trump administration may be quietly conceding defeat to California on car tailpipe emissions, the biggest battleground in the state’s showdown with President Trump over climate change.
Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt backed away last month from his threats to challenge California’s unique legal authority, known as a waiver, to set aggressive limits on vehicle emissions, including greenhouse gases.

Although Pruitt left the door open to a future challenge, experts said he is running out of time to stop California from dictating national pollution standards on cars, the nation’s primary source of greenhouse gas emissions.
“The auto manufacturers aren’t going to make two different kinds of cars, California and non-California, so by default they’re really required to make cars to the California standards,” said Michael Steel, a lawyer in the San Francisco office of the Morrison Foerster firm who advises companies on environmental compliance.
Because of the long lead time needed to design cars, Steel said, “It’s kind of too late” for the administration to block California’s rules. “There’s a timing issue in terms of whether you can effectively turn the clock back any later than now.”
California is the nation’s largest car market, and a dozen other states, comprising more than 40 percent of the U.S. population, have adopted California’s emissions standards.
Last week’s decisions by Chinese-owned Volvo to put electric engines in all its new cars, and by France to phase out gasoline and diesel cars by 2040, only strengthened California’s hand.
“I don’t want to attribute any one automaker’s statements to our regs,” said Joshua Cunningham, head of the California Air Resources Board’s clean cars branch, which develops the state’s car pollution standards. “But given the broad momentum of California’s regulations and what’s happening in Europe and in China, I think the industry sees some pretty consistent signals from a lot of governments that long-term emissions requirements are going to continue to get more strict.”
http://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/article/Trump-administration-may-let-California-keep-11276368.php

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