Opinion / Coast to Coast: Connecticut Willing to Fight Trump’s Fuel Economy Rollback

In August 2018, the Trump administration revealed plans that would reduce the nation’s fuel efficiency standards for automobiles.

In collaboration with the EPA and NHTSA, Trump proposed the Safe Affordable Fuel Efficiency rule, which amends the current Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards. This new rule freezes the average fuel efficiency requirement at 35 mpg for model years 2021 through 2026, a number much lower than CAFE’s 54.5 mpg.

Trump wants to implement a national standard under the guise of protecting consumers from safety and cost concerns associated with green vehicles. His changes, though, would call for the rescindment of the “California Waiver.” Connecticut is one of the 12 states alongside the District of Columbia that has adopted the regulations under the California Waiver. Trump’s plan to implement his own SAFE regulations has profound effects on Connecticut, a state working to reduce its emissions.

The California Waiver was added to the Clean Air Act in 1970 and grants California the ability to regulate its own emissions standards. California had already been innovative in developing green technology, thus it was deemed able to decide its own regulations. Since the waiver’s promulgation, the state has set more stringent standards on vehicle emissions in attempt to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. States can choose to follow either California’s regulations or federal ones, however, Trump’s proposal to revoke the waiver leaves states that use California’s rules in a compromising position.

Connecticut operates under California’s waiver and will feel the consequences of its rollback. According to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, “mobile pollution accounts for approximately fifty percent of all man-made air pollution emitted in Connecticut and throughout the Northeast.”

Vehicles produce significant amounts of nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, and other pollutants that have many dangerous health effects that impact people of all ages. Air pollution alone increases respiratory diseases such as asthma and bronchitis while particulate matter is responsible for 30,000 premature deaths each year.

On the issue, Attorney General Jepsen states, “The Trump administration is determined to roll back protections, like these auto emissions standards, that are critical to the health, safety and wellbeing of Connecticut residents.” Thus, it is imperative that Connecticut be able to regulate its emissions standards in order to lessen its negative effects.

Without the waiver, Connecticut can expect to face difficulty addressing the transportation sector and meeting state and nationwide reduction goals.

In 2014, the U.S. Energy and Information Administration found that transportation emissions of greenhouse gases constitute 43 percent of the GHG inventory and are the leading source of GHG emissions in Connecticut.

As Commissioner Klee argues, “Freezing today’s air pollution standards in place until 2026 will not only cost American families at the gas pump, we’ll also pay for this recklessness as climate forcing pollution, which based on earlier EPA studies could be reduced cost effectively, is dumped into our air while simultaneously American-made technology, which could create jobs and reduce this pollution, sits by idly as the world moves past us yet again. This action makes no sense on any level and Connecticut DEEP will continue to take appropriate action with our partners to protect the air we breathe.”

Halting fuel efficiency standards will only exacerbate the effects of pollution induced by automobiles and complicate the process of reducing emissions.

Connecticut’s best interest is to support the continuation of the California Waiver. This would allow the state to resume its path of reducing emissions and creating a cleaner environment.

Gov. Dannel Malloy is on-board with opposing the repeal of California’s waiver, stating, “Rather than acknowledging the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community, President Trump’s administration continues to ignore their warnings and recommendations. This president seems intent on leaving an environmental legacy that is aimed at doing irreparable harm our planet, rather than protecting it. We will do everything in our power to defend Connecticut’s right to set appropriate vehicle emissions standards and to protect the air our residents breathe.”

Olivia Blair is a Fairfield resident and current student at Bowdoin College.