Here is the law for California air quality standards and the ability to establish them independent from the Fed government
Because California was the first government to establish vehicle air quality regulations -and America based its Federal regulations off of what California invented — the Federal law says that California gets an exception to Federal regulations because it implemented its air quality laws before March 30 1966. The Federal government is recognizing that it is only enacting air quality standards because CA thought of them, and is following CA’s leadership.
Trump wants to instruct the Secretary of Transportation (now a woman, when the law says ironically “he”) to say that California “does not require standards more stringent than applicable Federal standards”. Legally the law says that the Federal secretary of Transportation can determine that California does not need a higher level of emissions reductions.
We know that this can be done because an other (not popularly elected and shady) President removed Californians emissions waiver in 2008 — his name was George W Bush. So there is legal precedent — for what Trump is trying to do.
“1967 Air Quality Act of 1967 National Air Emission Standards Act P.L. 90–148” Section 208 (b) November 21 1967, The United States Code, Office of the Law Revision Counsel of the United States House of Representatives
“Air Quality Act of 1967: Title II — emissions standards from moving sources: Part A — motor vehicle emissions and fuel standards: Section 209, Part B “State Standards” from Cornel University Law School, US Codes, 42 U.S. CODE § 7543 — STATE STANDARDS, Officially listed as: (July 14, 1955, ch. 360, title II, § 209, formerly § 208, as added Pub. L. 90–148, § 2,Nov. 21, 1967, 81 Stat. 501; renumbered and amended Pub. L. 91–604, §§ 8(a), 11 (a)(2)(A), 15 ©(2),Dec. 31, 1970, 84 Stat. 1694, 1705, 1713; Pub. L. 95–95, title II, §§ 207, 221,Aug. 7, 1977, 91 Stat. 755, 762; Pub. L. 101–549, title II, § 222(b),Nov. 15, 1990, 104 Stat. 2502.)
42 U.S. Code § 7543 - State standards
Prior Provisions A prior section 209 of act , as added , Pub. L. 90-148, § 2, 81 Stat. 502, was renumbered section 210…
“It instructed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider its decision last year to bar California from regulating greenhouse-gas emissions from cars. Under the Clean Air Act, a 1970s law designed to fight smog, California is the only state that can set stricter rules about vehicle pollution than the federal government; but the EPA must approve them. Other states can then choose to follow either the Californian standard or the federal one.”
”California’s green light”, The Economist, January 29 2009
California's green light
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“California Sues E.P.A. Over Denial of Waiver” by Felicity Barringer, New York Times, Jan 3, 2008