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Trump to Revoke California’s Emissions Standards Waiver, Sources Say

Politics
Trump to Revoke California’s Emissions Standards Waiver, Sources Say
Freeway traffic in Los Angeles, California, which has a special waiver to set car emissions under the Clean Air Act. Coolcaesar / CC BY-SA 4.0

The Trump administration is set to revoke California's ability to set its own automobile greenhouse gas emissions standards, as part of a plan to lower Obama-era emissions standards for cars and light trucks to be announced this week, three people familiar with the plan told Bloomberg news Monday.

Trump's plan for new standards would be the administration's largest deregulatory move yet. It would cap fuel efficiency standards at the 2020 level of at least 35 miles per gallon, according to Bloomberg.


In addition to eliminating California's ability to set its own emissions standards, revoking the waiver would also block the state from mandating car makers sell a minimum number of electric vehicles.

The new decision comes as transportation has exceeded power generation as the leading cause of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions for two years in a row, according to the Rhodium Group, and would therefore be a major blow to the fight against climate change.

California, which is currently suffering through another summer of wildfires and heat waves, is likely to fight in court to keep its waiver.

"We have the law on our side, as well as the people of the country and the people of the world," California Air Resources Board member Dan Sperling told Bloomberg.

Earthjustice attorney Paul Cort agreed. "California has done the math, and it's concluded that the only way to meet both its greenhouse gas goals and its ozone targets is to move away from fossil fuel-based transportation," Cort told Bloomberg. "The law is very clear about California's authority to set these standards, and for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to try to narrow it now means they have an uphill battle."

California was granted a waiver to set its own emissions standards under the Clean Air Act because they were already working to regulate the state's unique air pollution problems when it first passed. Other states can't set their own standards, but they can choose to follow California's. The District of Columbia and 13 states have chosen to do so.

Under the Obama administration, the auto industry, EPA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and California agreed to a single set of standards that would raise fuel efficiency to more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025.

But in April, Scott Pruitt's EPA scuttled that agreement when it ruled that the Obama-era standards should be less stringent.

Bloomberg's sources, who spoke under a condition of anonymity, said the new plan was still being finalized by the Office of Management and Budget, but that the core elements of the plan, including the lower standards and the revoking of California's waiver, were unlikely to change before the public announcement.

For automakers, the new plan is an example of being careful what you wish for. They initially complained about the Obama administration's higher standards, but they also do not want to have to design cars for two U.S. markets if California and other states stick to the higher standards.

California currently has an auto market the size of Canada's.

"This is a huge shift in regulatory oversight, and while it initially looks like a benefit for automakers it adds a level of uncertainty none of them want," executive publisher at Kelley Blue Book Karl Brauer said in a statement emailed to Bloomberg.

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An illustration depicts the extinct woolly rhino. Heinrich Harder / Wikimedia Commons

The last Ice Age eliminated some giant mammals, like the woolly rhino. Conventional thinking initially attributed their extinction to hunting. While overhunting may have contributed, a new study pinpointed a different reason for the woolly rhinos' extinction: climate change.

The last of the woolly rhinos went extinct in Siberia nearly 14,000 years ago, just when the Earth's climate began changing from its frozen conditions to something warmer, wetter and less favorable to the large land mammal. DNA tests conducted by scientists on 14 well-preserved rhinos point to rapid warming as the culprit, CNN reported.

"Humans are well known to alter their environment and so the assumption is that if it was a large animal it would have been useful to people as food and that must have caused its demise," says Edana Lord, a graduate student at the Center for Paleogenetics in Stockholm, Sweden, and co-first author of the paper, Smithsonian Magazine reported. "But our findings highlight the role of rapid climate change in the woolly rhino's extinction."

The study, published in Current Biology, notes that the rhino population stayed fairly consistent for tens of thousands of years until 18,500 years ago. That means that people and rhinos lived together in Northern Siberia for roughly 13,000 years before rhinos went extinct, Science News reported.

The findings are an ominous harbinger for large species during the current climate crisis. As EcoWatch reported, nearly 1,000 species are expected to go extinct within the next 100 years due to their inability to adapt to a rapidly changing climate. Tigers, eagles and rhinos are especially vulnerable.

The difference between now and the phenomenon 14,000 years ago is that human activity is directly responsible for the current climate crisis.

To figure out the cause of the woolly rhinos' extinction, scientists examined DNA from different rhinos across Siberia. The tissue, bone and hair samples allowed them to deduce the population size and diversity for tens of thousands of years prior to extinction, CNN reported.

Researchers spent years exploring the Siberian permafrost to find enough samples. Then they had to look for pristine genetic material, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

It turns out the wooly rhinos actually thrived as they lived alongside humans.

"It was initially thought that humans appeared in northeastern Siberia fourteen or fifteen thousand years ago, around when the woolly rhinoceros went extinct. But recently, there have been several discoveries of much older human occupation sites, the most famous of which is around thirty thousand years old," senior author Love Dalén, a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Center for Paleogenetics, said in a press release.

"This paper shows that woolly rhino coexisted with people for millennia without any significant impact on their population," Grant Zazula, a paleontologist for Canada's Yukon territory and Simon Fraser University who was not involved in the research, told Smithsonian Magazine. "Then all of a sudden the climate changed and they went extinct."

A large patch of leaked oil and the vessel MV Wakashio near Blue Bay Marine Park off the coast of southeast Mauritius on Aug. 6, 2020. AFP via Getty Images

The environmental disaster that Mauritius is facing is starting to appear as its pristine waters turn black, its fish wash up dead, and its sea birds are unable to take flight, as they are limp under the weight of the fuel covering them. For all the damage to the centuries-old coral that surrounds the tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean, scientists are realizing that the damage could have been much worse and there are broad lessons for the shipping industry, according to Al Jazeera.

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A quality engineer examines new solar panels in a factory. alvarez / Getty Images

Transitioning to renewable energy can help reduce global warming, and Jennie Stephens of Northeastern University says it can also drive social change.

For example, she says that locally owned businesses can lead the local clean energy economy and create new jobs in underserved communities.

"We really need to think about … connecting climate and energy with other issues that people wake up every day really worried about," she says, "whether it be jobs, housing, transportation, health and well-being."

To maximize that potential, she says the energy sector must have more women and people of color in positions of influence. Research shows that leadership in the solar industry, for example, is currently dominated by white men.

"I think that a more inclusive, diverse leadership is essential to be able to effectively make these connections," Stephens says. "Diversity is not just about who people are and their identity, but the ideas and the priorities and the approaches and the lens that they bring to the world."

So she says by elevating diverse voices, organizations can better connect the climate benefits of clean energy with social and economic transformation.

Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

The frozen meat section at a supermarket in Hong Kong, China, in February. Chukrut Budrul / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

Imported frozen food in three Chinese cities has tested positive for the new coronavirus, but public health experts say you still shouldn't worry too much about catching the virus from food or packaging.

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This image of the Santa Monica Mountains in California shows how a north-facing slope (left) can be covered in white-blooming hoaryleaf ceanothus (Ceanothus crassifolius), while the south-facing slope (right) is much less sparsely covered in a completely different plant. Noah Elhardt / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.5

By Mark Mancini

If weather is your mood, climate is your personality. That's an analogy some scientists use to help explain the difference between two words people often get mixed up.

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Flames from the Lake Fire burn on a hillside near a fire truck and other vehicles on Aug. 12, 2020 in Lake Hughes, California. Mario Tama / Getty Images

An "explosive" wildfire ignited in Los Angeles county Wednesday, growing to 10,000 acres in a little less than three hours.

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Although heat waves rarely get the attention that hurricanes do, they kill far more people per year in the U.S. and abroad. greenaperture / Getty Images

By Jeff Berardelli

Note: This story was originally published on August 6, 2020

If asked to recall a hurricane, odds are you'd immediately invoke memorable names like Sandy, Katrina or Harvey. You'd probably even remember something specific about the impact of the storm. But if asked to recall a heat wave, a vague recollection that it was hot during your last summer vacation may be about as specific as you can get.

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