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California smokescreen: In revoking a waiver on the Clean Air Act, the Trump administration rejects 50 years of environmental policy


Few things animate Donald Trump as much as petulantly overturning policy of his predecessor, no matter how wise its provenance. If doing so also harms Democratic strongholds, so much the better. Double bonus: pushing back against the scientific consensus on combating climate change.

That’s how best to explain the president’s revocation of a legal waiver granted California 10 years ago to set higher automobile fuel efficiency benchmarks, with regulations racing toward a 54 mph standard by 2025.

Four big automakers — Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen — entered into an agreement with California on the new rules.

This isn’t some radical arrangement. The largest state in the union, 40 million strong, has set more stringent fuel and greenhouse gas emissions standards for decades. It began a half-century ago, when Richard Nixon signed the Clean Air Act in 1970.

California, which struggled mightily with smog, was granted a special carveout under law, provided it could demonstrate its standards were higher than federal ones.

Since then, the state has been granted 100 such waivers. In 1977, Congress allowed other states to opt in to the higher standards.

Thirteen other states have joined California, voluntarily adopting the most recent goals it set. Twenty-three states (plus New York City and Los Angeles) have joined California’s lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Transportation and EPA revoking the waiver.

Never mind all the conservative talk about giving states freedom to set their own rules that meet their own needs. Never mind the compelling history and legal precedent.

Trump and the broader Republican Party would rather lash out against a forward-looking state working with automakers to combat climate change. Even a conservative Supreme Court, wary of activist environmental regulations, should brush back the feds’ aggressive overreach.