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CA Tries to Preserve Environment Clout 09/19 06:11

   SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- In eliminating California's authority to set its 
own emission standards for cars and trucks, the Trump administration would take 
away leverage the state needs to convince the world's largest automakers to 
make more environmentally friendly vehicles.

   But one California lawmaker is already working on a way to preserve at least 
some of the state's environmental muscle: rebates for electric cars.

   California residents who buy or lease a zero-emission vehicle can get up to 
$7,000 from the state. A bill by Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting would mean 
people could only get that money if they buy a car from a company that has 
agreed to follow California's emission standards.

   The proposal comes as the Trump administration on Wednesday announced it was 
revoking California's authority to set its own auto emission standards --- 
authority it has had for decades under a waiver from the federal Clean Air Act.

   California has 35 million registered vehicles, giving it outsized influence 
with the auto industry. That heft was on display in July, when Democratic Gov. 
Gavin Newsom announced four automakers --- Ford, BMW, Honda and Volkswagen --- 
agreed to follow California's standards, bypassing the Trump administration, 
which had been working on new rules.

   California officials have been negotiating with other automakers to follow 
suit, but those talks stalled Wednesday when Trump announced, via Twitter, that 
he was revoking California's authority to set its own emission standards.

   But Ting's proposal, first reported by CalMatters, shows California has 
other ways it could entice automakers to follow its environmental lead. David 
Vogel, a professor emeritus of business ethics at the Haas School of Business 
of the University of California-Berkeley, noted California could accomplish its 
goals through various tax changes, which the federal government could not stop.

   "Even if the Trump administration would win on this, California could use 
taxes to accomplish much of the same goals," Vogel said. "The federal 
government would have less of an ability to challenge, because states can 
pretty much tax who they want."

   The California Legislature adjourned for the year last week. But before they 
left, they amended Assembly Bill 40 to include the new language so they could 
debate it when they return to work in January.

   State officials could use the tactic to aid negotiations with Toyota and 
General Motors, two manufacturers that make electric cars but have so far not 
agreed to California's emission standards. It's unclear how effective the law 
would be as California's Clean Vehicle Rebate Project has a waiting list.

   A Toyota spokesman declined to comment.

   Ting, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment. But he is scheduled to 
speak with reporters about the issue on Thursday.

   Asked about the proposal on Wednesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he 
would make an announcement by Friday, but he did not elaborate.

   In a tweet, Trump said his action to revoke California's authority to set 
its own emission standards would result in less expensive, safer cars. He also 
predicted Americans would purchase more new cars, which would result in cleaner 
air as older models are taken off the roads.

   "Many more cars will be produced under the new and uniform standard, meaning 
significantly more JOBS, JOBS, JOBS! Automakers should seize this opportunity 
because without this alternative to California, you will be out of business," 
Trump tweeted.

   U.S. automakers contend that without year-over-year increases in fuel 
efficiency that align with global market realities their vehicles could be less 
competitive, potentially resulting in job losses. However, most of the industry 
favors increases in standards that are less than the Obama-era requirements, 
saying their consumers are gravitating to SUVs and trucks rather than buying 
more efficient cars.

   Top California officials and environmental groups pledged legal action on 
Wednesday to stop the rollback, potentially tying up the issue for years in 
federal courts. The U.S. transportation sector is the nation's biggest single 
source of greenhouse gasses.

   Trump's claim that his proposal would result in a cleaner environment is 
contrary to his own administration's estimate that by freezing economy 
standards, U.S. fuel consumption would increase by about 500,000 barrels per 
day, a 2% to 3% increase. Environmental groups predict even more fuel consumed, 
resulting in higher pollution.

   The administration argues that lower-cost vehicles would allow more people 
to buy new ones that are safer, cutting roadway deaths by 12,700 lives through 
the 2029 model year. But The Associated Press reported last year that internal 
EPA emails show senior career officials privately questioned the 
administration's calculations, saying the proposed freeze would actually 
modestly increase highway fatalities, by about 17 deaths annually.


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