California has a waiver under the Clean Air Act that allows the state to implement tougher fuel efficiency standards. The fate of that long-standing special treatment under President Donald Trump remains a subject of speculation. Pruitt said on Monday the waiver is still being re-examined.
“Cooperative federalism doesn’t mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country,” he said.
Congress enacted the CAFE standards in 1975 with the goal of shrinking fuel consumption. The Obama administration proposed new regulations to further erode the nation’s appetite for fossil fuels, tackle climate change and bolster the nation’s energy security.
The transportation sector accounts for about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity in the United States, according to the EPA.
Trump and Pruitt have both questioned the overwhelming consensus among climate scientists that carbon emissions from human activity are the primary cause of global warming.
Environmental groups immediately criticized the move.
“The Trump administration’s decision will take America backward by jeopardizing successful safeguards that are working to clean our air, save drivers money at the pump, and drive technological innovation that creates jobs,” said Luke Tonachel, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s clean vehicles and fuels project, in a statement.
But the decision won praise from corners of conservatism and libertarian think tanks that have cheered the president’s rollback of Obama-era environmental rules.
“EPA’s announcement is good news for consumers who care about safety, performance, and size, as well as fuel economy in the vehicles they drive. This is the first step in many years toward reducing government control over what kinds of cars people can choose to buy,” said Myron Ebell, director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Energy and Environment and head of the EPA’s transition team under Trump.