California Clovers Temper-Tantruming

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Automakers hailed President Donald Trump’s call on Wednesday for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review and possibly dial back car fuel efficiency standards.

But California Clovers see things differently.

California plans to move ahead with tougher car pollution rules for 2022-2025, which President Barack Obama hastily approved before Trump took office. California regulators are expected to finalize the rules at a March 23-24 meeting.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, a climate change skeptic, said his agency will review the federal rules and is widely expected to loosen them.

Meanwhile industry group Auto Alliance has sued the EPA to overturn its rules, which automakers says are expensive and could cost Americans jobs. California’s attorney general has asked the court to let the state defend the Obama regulations.

Currently, the nation has a single set of standards automakers must meet when manufacturing vehicles. The clash between California and the Trump administration could lead to one set of standards in California and at least a dozen other states and another standard in the rest of the country, increasing costs for car makers and headaches for consumers.

“We are not backing down,” said Hector De La Torre, a member of the California Air Resources Board, which sets policy that more than a dozen other states follow in full or part. Reuters spoke to a majority of board members, who all voiced support for the original plan worked out by the federal government, carmakers and California during Obama’s presidency.

That plan includes stricter tailpipe emissions targets and a California mandate for zero-emissions cars.


Uber Clover California Gov. Jerry Brown has promised to lead the fight to stop Trump from weakening environmental rules, a stance echoed by Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols.

“We intend to stick by the commitments that we made. If for some reason the federal government and the industry decide to abandon those agreements that we all reached, we will have to re-examine our options,” she said in an interview. “If the issue is are they going to relax the standards, then we would vehemently oppose that.”

Federal law prohibits states from setting their own vehicle emissions rules, except for California, which can seek waivers to federal policy under the Clean Air Act.

California has a waiver for the plan through 2025, although its targets are the same as federal ones and it does not require separate compliance from automakers.

If the EPA relaxes its own rules, that could change. California may hold automakers to the original targets by beginning to enforce its rules independently. It is not clear whether that technical decision would require an additional waiver from the Trump administration.

Another Clover, Natural Resources Defense Council vehicle analyst Simon Mui argued it would not. “California doesn’t need a permission slip to stick with the standards it has on the books,” he said.

Automakers desperately want to continue with a national policy to avoid making different cars for different states. Oil refineries already face challenges in California because they say the state has the strictest environmental rules in the U.S., requiring special blends of gasoline to reduce pollution.

In a battle with California, the federal government could try to change the Clean Air Act to end regulation of carbon dioxide as a pollutant, or it could try to revoke California’s permission to enforce the current car pollution program.

Both approaches could be difficult, and a Trump administration official speaking on condition of anonymity, said the president was not seeking to revoke California’s authority at this time, but would not rule out such a move in the future.


  1. I was thinking about this the other day. What is the big deal if a state wants to impose their own rules on manufacturers? Why is it so important to have one standard for the entire county (and soon world)? The whole point of the United States was that Jefferson thought it would be a way to experiment on a small scale and allow for irreconcilable differences of opinion to be segregated by geography.

    I say let Cali do whatever they want, let Colorado do what they want, and let Alabama do whatever they want. And if GM gets pissed off because they have to design two different exhaust pipes, let them charge more in CA to make up for the engineering cost. Or just don’t do business in those states that make it too difficult. Besides, most states will probably figure out who has the best standard on their own instead of deferring to a single bureaucratic agency at the federal level. And if smog from Nevada can be proven to be crossing the boarder into California, then let the states sort it out in the federal system.

    • Excellent point Eric, the automakers should show some spine and tell California and any other states (most likely including mine) that want to impose impossibly strict standards to get stuffed. After a few years as older cars died off and their owners couldn’t get replacements they’d get damn tired of having to take the bus or walk everywhere. Love to see how that would work out ?

  2. Can’t we just give California to N. Korea or Sweden or some other socialist/communist hell-hole? I’m sure most Californians would be ecstatic. (Act now, and we’ll throw in Detroit!)

  3. California already has it’s own Byzantine emission standards on new vehicles. It functionally amounts to nothing more than a ‘sticker’ in the engine bay stating it complies to CA emissions (as opposed to Federal emissions), but, if you buy a ‘new’ vehicle (or under 7K miles and/or other special circumstances and/or exceptions) out-of-state without said sticker, then it CAN NOT be eligible to register in CA unless you go through a bunch of byzantine exercises with the CA DMV (which still does not guarantee you will eventually be able to do so, since each office is it’s own little fiefdom). It is for this reason that CA residents can’t really cross state shop when looking for a new car. It’s a real pain in the ass when you’re looking for a low production number vehicle.

  4. It sucks that California is still too important to the auto industry to ignore. If it was most states, that action that could be taken, just stop selling there.

    What California forgets is, just because they ban (or make something so hard to do its defacto banned), that activity goes somewhere else. I have heard of so many car related businesses like car painting and custom shops, decamping for Nevada and Arizona for their more sane rules and lower cost of living.

    When I was a kid, (back in the 80’s) when people moved (from the Chicago area) a-lot of them moved to California. That isn’t the case anymore, it seems California been replaced with Texas and Florida (and a handful of other southern and non coastal western states). Lots of those folks that moved out to California back in the 80’s have moved on from there too.


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