Last week, General Motors threw itself into reverse and backed away from the Trump Administration’s sputtering attack on California clean air standards and that state’s right to set vehicle emissions rules tougher than the federal government’s.
In a letter to environmental groups defending those standards against a Trump lawsuit, General Motors Corporation (GMC) CEO Mary Barra said it was withdrawing support from the suit, and GMC would encourage other automakers to do the same. The company also noted its support for the incoming Biden Administration’s plans for more electric vehicles and “dramatically reducing vehicle emissions.”
Natural Resources Defense Council director for clean cars and clean fuels Luke Tonachel said, “We welcome General Motors’ decision to drop its support of the Trump administration’s effort to block California from its historic role in setting clean car standards. All the other automakers should do the same. GM’s move is an important sign that automakers recognize that the transition to zero-emitting vehicles is well underway.”
California’s unique authority under the Clean Air Act dates back to the unusual severity of that state’s smog problem at the time the law was adopted in the 1970s. In an historic legislative compromise, California was the one state permitted to set its own stronger vehicle emissions standards. That authority is of nationwide significance, since other states are allowed to adopt California’s stronger standards as a legal option. This authority has proven one key to driving tougher pollution controls on cars and trucks for decades, given California’s huge population and economy and automakers’ desire to develop one set of cars for a national market rather than two sets of cars under two sets of emissions standards. The Trump Administration had targeted that authority as one part of its sweeping pro-polluter attack on American air and water quality protection laws.
Meanwhile, even as some major industries act to recognize the new handwriting on the wall, Donald Trump’s environmental wrecking crew continues hard at work. On the day after Thanksgiving, Trump’s Interior Department apparatchiks published their official analysis that weakening century-old protections for migratory birds would not cause significant environmental harm. It was the latest step in their rush to finalize a formal federal rule change before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. Environmental advocates pledge to continue fighting in court to block the changes until the green relief crew can arrive to stop the madness in January.