In an intensifying standoff against the federal government over environmental protections, it’s good to see Minnesota join the ranks of what are now 22 states and Puerto Rico fighting President Donald Trump’s effort to roll back vehicle fuel-efficiency standards.
Last week Gov. Tim Walz joined governors across the country in standing with California as it pushes back against the Trump administration’s attempt to undo a higher standard intended to lower carbon emissions, a top contributor to climate change.
At stake is the current requirement for vehicles to obtain a “real world” average of about 36 miles per gallon by 2025. Trump wants to reduce that to about 30 mpg required by 2020 and keep it there. In a federal lawsuit, California argued the rollback could increase emissions equal to putting another 2.8 million cars on the road each year between now and 2025.
California is also seeking a court order forcing federal agencies to release the data and analysis supporting weaker mileage standards. The lawsuit accused the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of withholding the information used for the proposal.
“The Trump Administration has repeatedly failed to comply with California’s FOIA requests,” the lawsuit stated. “They are unwilling to admit that the facts and analysis simply do not support their desired outcome.”
Under the Obama administration, both agencies had agreed to the higher standard and had done the work to support those tighter requirements.
The higher standard was intended to save consumers money at the pump and reduce oil consumption and global pollution. The administration’s contention, that the rollback would lower car costs, should be backed up by facts and weighed against the other gains that would be lost with lower fuel efficiency.
And there simply is no rationale for refusing to share information. It is another illustration of what has become common practice for an administration that bars employees and even former employees from answering congressional subpoenas and in which agencies feel free to refuse to testify before Congress or supply documents.
The problem here is twofold: a highhanded federal government that feels no obligation to explain or defend its actions, and a damaging rollback in standards at a time when the toll from climate change is mounting daily.
The Trump administration has also said it is responding to American buyers’ preference for gas-hungry trucks and SUVs over electric cars, hybrids and other fuel-efficient vehicles. But this is not a give-the-customers-what-they-want situation. This country needs leadership that will help Americans understand why the need to reduce emissions is so urgent.
The government should be spurring the development of non-fossil-fuel technology rather than undermining it. Maintaining and even fostering our continued dependence on fossil fuels is shortsighted and carries grave implications not just for the U.S. but the world.
California has led the way on this front for decades, since it decided to tackle the health-threatening smog that clouded its skies. In the 1970s it gained a unique ability from Congress’ passage of the Clean Air Act to set nation-leading emission and fuel-economy standards. More than a dozen states still follow that higher standard. California continues the push for higher goals, and we’re glad Minnesota has joined the effort.