California vows to fight Trump plan to freeze fuel economy rules

LOS ANGELES -- State prosecutors from California to Massachusetts blasted the Trump administration Thursday for proposing weaker auto fuel-efficiency standards they said would imperil clean air and increase greenhouse gases.

Months after they pre-emptively sued to block anticipated efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to roll back mileage regulations, Democratic attorneys general vowed to continue their fight in the courts.

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"The earth is not flat, and climate change is real," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said, as he connected global warming to the deadly wildfires burning out of control throughout the state. "Can someone please inform the folks at the White House and our federal government of those facts?"

Becerra also promised another lawsuit if the administration makes good on what he called "arbitrary and capricious" plans to revoke a longstanding waiver allowing California and other states to set their own stricter auto emissions standards. At least twelve other states and the District of Columbia follow California's rules.

"California will join a lawsuit led by the state of Washington that seeks to block this reckless new Trump administration policy," Becerra said.

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Republicans have argued that under the Obama plan, consumers have less of a choice and would pay significantly higher prices for more fuel-efficient cars. In addition, they maintain that electric cars are not as green as people claim.

"Electric cars account for a lot of electricity generation and a lot of that is dependent on natural gas and coal and that pollutes the air," said Jason Clark, the chairman of San Francisco's Republican Party.

Becerra and attorneys general from 16 other states sued in May to stop the EPA from scrapping standards that would have required vehicles by 2025 to achieve 36 miles per gallon (58 kilometers per gallon) in real-world driving, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) over the existing standards. The Trump proposal would freeze standards at 2020 levels when vehicles will be required to hit an average of 30 miles per gallon (48 kilometers per gallon) in real-world driving.

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Pollution from cars, trucks and other on-road vehicles is the California's single-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, according to state data. California has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. It met its 2020 goals four years early, but hitting the next target will be much harder without cleaner vehicles.

The state has struggled to rein in vehicle pollution. Transportation is the only sector where greenhouse gas emissions went up in 2016, the most recent data available.

"This does not allow us to set the strict guidelines. We've always been more aggressive than the United States," said Assemblyman Phil Ting.

Ting has introduced a bill to ban all sales of new gas-powered cars in the state by 2040.

For now, Ting's bill has been put on hold, but he says he will re-introduce it next year.

ABC7 News contributed to this story.
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