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California Vows To Take Trump To Court Over Emissions Standards


So for years, California has enforced some of the most stringent auto emission standards in the country. The Trump administration wants to roll back those standards, and California is vowing to take the administration to court. Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom is leading the resistance, and he spoke with our co-host Noel King.

GAVIN NEWSOM: Substantively, in sort of layman's terms, by 2025, 2026, roughly 50 miles per gallon would be the minimum that would be allowable in terms of fuel efficiency mile standards, versus where Trump wants to go at 37 miles per gallon. So that's the fundamental differentiator. Within that is billions and billions of gallons of wasted consumption and fuel and related emissions associated with that.

NOEL KING, BYLINE: California has sued the Trump administration dozens of times over environmental issues. Has the state successfully been able to protect its policies?

NEWSOM: Overwhelmingly. I mean, we're now approaching 60 lawsuits against the administration not just on the environment, but on immigration, on health care, on a myriad of other issues - women's rights. It's not because we choose to file these lawsuits. We don't wake up every morning looking for a crowbar to put in the wheels or the spokes of the president and his administration. It's protecting our values. And we're asserting our rights. We're asserting our not just formal authority but our moral authority. And this country, I think, has benefited from California's efforts. The climate has certainly benefited, and our economic competitiveness.

And that's - the perversity specifically on this waiver issue and this emission issue is the administration is not doing the bidding of the automobile manufacturers. In fact, four have voluntarily agreed to California/Obama's standards, regardless of what the Trump administration wants to do. He's doing the bidding only and exclusively for the oil companies. And I think that's a really sad thing, particularly a week before the U.N. climate conference, at a time when the world is waking up to the issue of climate change, that our president is doing such, such damage.

KING: You mentioned that four major automakers have signed on to these emission standards. And I wonder, have you heard anything from them about this?

NEWSOM: No, not now because the Trump administration has not only threatened them; now he's got his Department of Justice trying to go after them on antitrust provisions, so it's completely chilled any subsequent negotiations. There were a number of other manufacturers - I don't think this; I know this. I mean, I've personally been engaged in this - that were ready to join California. They knew that, so they decided to make up at least a legal argument on antitrust, which is rather - well, it's not surprising, but it's rather absurd. Their argument - and I'm confident - will be adjudicated in favor of those companies and our state.

KING: The antitrust accusation is that when the car companies - the four big car companies came together and said that they would agree to these emission standards, that, in a sense, was a form of collusion. That's what the administration is arguing.

NEWSOM: Yeah, that's what they're arguing, which is completely absurd. I mean, they are willing - individually willing to engage in unique and separate negotiations with the state of California to address their separate interests and needs. They voluntarily were basically saying, we support these higher emission standards not just because our consumers are demanding it, but because we want to remain internationally competitive. China is going to eliminate the internal combustion engine. India, Japan, the rest of the world is moving in a new direction. They can't compete internationally. It's not just about Mother Nature. It's about our global economic competitiveness.

But that's the lengths to which this administration will go. They don't believe in free enterprise. They don't believe that private sector corporations have the right to do what they think is in the best interest of their customers and their shareholders. And that's a rather chilling reality for many corporate leaders in this country.

And it's not lost on me as a Californian that these same Republicans that have long preached federalism and states' rights here are not practicing that, and they're completely complicit and silent at this moment. No Republican leader has said a word about this issue.

KING: You know, it was just a year ago that you and President Trump stood together after those deadly fires in Paradise, Calif. And I wonder are you worried that these fights between your state and the Trump administration could affect the way California is able to rely on the federal government for aid, for help if and when the need arises?

NEWSOM: I'm more worried about your grandkids, my kids, people listening and their kids. I worry about the planet. The hots are getting hotter. The dries are getting drier. The wets are getting wetter. This is serious. If you don't address the issue of transportation, you're not serious about addressing the issue of climate change. If you care about global competitiveness and reducing dependency on the Middle East and Saudi Arabia and not having to placate the leaders of Saudi Arabia or get into another war - endless war in the Middle East, you care about fuel efficiency standards. If you care about the economy and free enterprise and our global competitiveness, you care about this issue.

So, yeah, I'm worried about California, but not really, because we are not a small, isolated state. This is an economy that's growing at an outsized rate than the rest of the federal government. We're running surpluses as the president of the United States is running record deficits. I think our model is the more appropriate path.

GREENE: The voice there of California Governor Gavin Newsom talking with our colleague Noel King about the prospect of relaxing the state's fuel emission standards. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.