SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao officially announced Thursday that they are revoking California’s authority to set strict auto emission standards.

The administration’s intention to take that step was announced by President Donald Trump on Wednesday in a tweet.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Wednesday they plan to sue to protect the state’s right to set limits on tailpipe air pollution that are stricter than federal limits.

The U.S. Clean Air Act of 1970 gives California the right to obtain a waiver from the EPA to set stricter standards and allows other states to choose to follow California’s lead. Thirteen states have done so.

Wheeler and Chao said the administration will now set a single national rule for auto fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions.

Wheeler, a former oil industry lobbyist, said there would no longer be exemptions for any states. “No state has the authority to opt out of national fuel economy standards, and no state has the authority to set its own fuel economy standards that impact human safety, the environment and commerce for the rest of the country.”

Environmentalists and former EPA officials have condemned the Trump administration’s move, which comes as gasoline prices have crept higher following a weekend drone attack that hobbled Saudi Arabian oil output.

“If the courts allow this unprecedented reversal, and the Trump EPA massively rolls back the federal clean car standards, then President Trump will have done more to destroy the planet than any other president in history,” said Jeff Alson, a former EPA senior environmental engineer and policy adviser who recently retired after 40 years at the agency.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said California would fight the administration in federal court.

“You have no basis and no authority to pull this waiver,” Becerra, a Democrat, said in a statement, referring to Trump. “We’re ready to fight for a future that you seem unable to comprehend.”

Trump’s Justice Department recently opened an antitrust investigation into a deal between California and four major automakers for tougher pollution and related mileage requirements than those sought by the Trump administration.

 

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