by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Editors at National Review Online support the Trump administration’s approach to California auto emissions standards.
The Trump administration is pushing ahead with a plan we endorsed previously. It will revoke California’s ability to set separate greenhouse-gas standards for cars — so that a single policy will apply to the entire country, and so that California can’t use the threat of a bifurcated regulatory regime to influence that policy in a way other states cannot.
We are fans of federalism. But Congress, understandably not wanting automakers to have to comply with 50 different sets of regulations, has generally preempted state regulation in this area — with the exception that California, and California alone, may apply for a waiver to create its own emission rules to address “compelling and extraordinary conditions.” Other states may then adopt these rules if they choose.
“Compelling and extraordinary conditions” was intended as a reference to smog. And in contrast to Californian smog, there is nothing compelling and extraordinary about Californian climate change. Climate change is happening to the rest of the country (and indeed the world) too, and climate change is what the state’s greenhouse-gas rules — as opposed to policies regulating other emissions — address. Thus the legal basis for the waiver does not apply here.
Further, under the Obama administration, California leveraged the car industry’s desire for a single regulatory regime into an agreement with the federal government, under which the nationwide regulations would reflect California’s priorities. As a result, car buyers nationwide had to pay extra for vehicles meeting the state’s preferences. No single state should have such power.