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

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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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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.