Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris (both D-Calif.) today called on the major automobile manufacturers to work with California to maintain strong fuel economy standards. The Trump administration is preparing to weaken the current standards despite a technical analysis that showed the standards were working and at lower costs than expected.
California has its own authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate tailpipe emissions and worked with the federal government to set the current standards, ensuring automobile manufacturers only had to meet one national standard.
“The existing standards deliver fuel savings for your customers, provide cleaner air for all Americans to breathe, help combat the catastrophic effects of climate change and offer investment certainty for your businesses,” the senators wrote. “In light of all these facts, we ask you to urge the Trump administration to abandon its plan to unilaterally weaken these standards and instead work collaboratively with California to maintain a forward-looking set of national standards.”
The full text of the letter follows:
May 8, 2018
Dear Auto Executive:
The Trump administration is preparing regulatory changes to dramatically weaken the fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for passenger vehicles. These proposed changes would not only lead to more pollutants in the air all Americans breathe, they also threaten to throw the automobile industry into disarray by causing years of litigation and investment uncertainty. We urge you to help avoid these negative consequences for public health and your industry by declaring your support for preserving the single national program of effective fuel economy and vehicle emission standards.
In 2012, shortly after the auto bailout, your company supported the national program of fuel economy and vehicle emission standards. This program was the product of extensive negotiation and collaboration between the federal government, auto manufacturers, California, and others. Two days after the 2016 election, however, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers wrote on your behalf to then-President-elect Trump arguing that the fuel economy and vehicle emission standards “pose a substantial challenge to the auto sector,” and asked for regulatory changes. The administration is now preparing a regulatory proposal to unilaterally weaken the standards, and draft documents suggest they may even seek to freeze the standards at 2020 levels.
If the Trump administration significantly departs from the 2012 agreement, it will end the single national program of fuel economy and vehicle emission standards that were supported by California, the federal government, and the auto manufacturers. In order to achieve its objective, we understand the administration may challenge California’s authority to set its own tailpipe emission standards under Section 209 of the Clean Air Act. As you know, this would provoke years of litigation and investment uncertainty for your industry.
The Clean Air Act contains no provision allowing for a Section 209 waiver to be revoked, and no administration has ever attempted to revoke a Section 209 waiver in its nearly fifty-year history. Furthermore, Congress made very clear when enacting the Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act that it was upholding, and not impeding, the independent authorities of the Environmental Protection Agency and California under the Clean Air Act. For these and other reasons, the State of California along with 16 other states and the District of Columbia have already filed suit challenging the administration’s effort to roll back the existing emission standards, and would likely expand their legal efforts should the administration seek to impair their rights under Section 209.
The only hope for maintaining the single national program of effective fuel economy and vehicle emission standards is to accept the validity of California’s role in implementing vehicle emission standards and proceed with the sincere intention of maintaining consensus. Some of your colleagues have already spoken out. Ford Motor Company’s executive chairman and CEO wrote recently that “we support increasing clean car standards through 2025 and are not asking for a rollback.” Honda’s assistant vice president wrote last month in support of “maintaining the current standards that would raise the average fuel economy of the U.S. light-duty vehicle fleet to a projected 50.8 mpg by 2025....” Both companies spoke about the need to maintain one national program in collaboration with California. We commend them.
The existing standards deliver fuel savings for your customers, provide cleaner air for all Americans to breathe, help combat the catastrophic effects of climate change, and offer investment certainty for your businesses. In light of all these facts, we ask you to urge the Trump administration to abandon its plan to unilaterally weaken these standards and instead work collaboratively with California to maintain a forward-looking set of national standards.
United States Senator
United States Senator