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States’ rights at the center of California auto emission conflict

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Rachel Rhodes

The Trump administration is expected to strike down California’s ability to set in-state auto emissions standards this week. The move pits California against the administration in an unprecedented legal battle over the states’ right to regulate air quality.

David A. Bateman

David A. Bateman

Assistant Professor

David Bateman, assistant professor of government at Cornell University, studies American state constitutions and state legislative behavior. He says that the conflict will expose potentially counter-intuitive positions on states’ rights among political actors.

Bateman says:

“The coming fight over California's auto emissions authority will involve complex questions of federalism, congressional intent, and executive authority.

“One thing that it will likely make clear, however, is that there are few principled defenders of so-called ‘state rights’. It will be a conservative president, almost certainly backed by conservatives in his party and likely backed by the non-democratic conservative majority on the Supreme Court, that overturns the right of the state of California to set its own standards, on the specious grounds that in doing so it is setting the standards for the nation. And it will likely be liberals who insist that California has an inherent right to do so, despite the clear implications for federal authority to regulate the economy.”

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