California Enviros May Have Just Blinked In Battle With Trump Admin

Reuters//Chris Helgren

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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California’s environmentalist stalwarts may be preparing to ease up their fight with President Donald Trump’s administration and reach a deal on new fuel efficiency standards.

Officials are open to “minor adjustments” in fuel-efficiency rules, California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols said Tuesday at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Future of Energy Summit. Nichols’ agency is currently in negotiations with the White House and automakers, she added. The state’s top air-quality regulator is open to changing California’s strict rules in order to make them easier for automakers to manage, while still balancing California’s emissions-reduction goals.

Nichols’ comments are viewed as a major turning point after environmental advocates have widely resisted the Trump administration’s efforts to rollback Obama-era regulations.

Potential for agreement includes gas emissions associated with electrical vehicles. Automakers are responsible for greenhouse gas emissions linked with charging an EV, an Obama-era rule states currently. “I don’t think that was a great idea. I didn’t think it was at the time. If we can fix that now, that’d be a good thing,” Nichols said.

Nichols did add a caveat to the negotiations: the White House can’t steamroll the state on its own emissions standards. “Reason could prevail,” she said. “There’s a way to get to success, unless your goal is to roll over California and not allow us to have any standards.”

The issue at heart is California’s desire to set its own, more strict emission standards on automobiles — apart from whatever decisions the federal government makes. However, as the most populous state in the union, California’s enacted rules set a crucial standard for automakers across the country. The car industry wishes to avoid a situation where standards vary state by state.

Emissions targets the Obama administration set for light trucks and cars were too severe and must be revised, the White House announced April 2. California Governor Jerry Brown and state Attorney General Xavier Becerra are mulling whether to take legal action with other progressive states to preserve its options and take on the federal government.

The possibility of a lawsuit is “under active consideration,” according to Nichols — who has been dubbed the “Queen of Green” for her environmental advocacy over the years — but she is hoping an agreement can be reached.

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