EPA, NHTSA jointly revoke California vehicle emissions limit authority

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the US EPA jointly issued an action entitled “One National Program Rule” on Sept. 19 that will let the federal government set uniform emissions standards nationwide for cars and light-duty trucks.

Following up on US President Donald Trump’s announcement a day earlier, the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the US Environmental Protection Agency jointly issued an action entitled “One National Program Rule” on Sept. 19 that will let the federal government set uniform emissions standards nationwide for automobiles and light-duty trucks.

The move essentially revoked federal authority that California received under the 1963 Clean Air Act (CAA) to establish and enforce its own motor vehicle emissions limits because of its unique air-quality conditions.

The joint action finalized critical parts of the Safer, Affordable, Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule, first proposed in August 2018. This action makes clear that federal law preempts state and local tailpipe greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards as well as zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandates.

Under the joint action, NHTSA affirmed that its statutory authority to set nationally applicable fuel economy standards under the express preemption provisions of the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act dictates that such state and local programs are preempted.

EPA also withdrew the CAA preemption waiver it granted to California in January 2013 as it relates to the state’s GHG and ZEV programs. It also said that the joint action does not affect California’s ability to enforce its low-emission vehicle program and other clean air standards to address harmful ozone-forming vehicle emissions.

EPA said that the legal basis for its withdrawing the California waiver is in CAA section 209(b)(1)(B), which covers compelling and extraordinary conditions.

The agency said that it finds that California does not need its GHG and ZEV standards to meet compelling and extraordinary conditions because those standards address environmental problems that are not particular or unique to California, that are not caused by emissions or other factors particular or unique to the state, and for which the standards will not provide any remedy particular or unique to California.

“The California waiver authority exists because California has uniquely difficult problems with ozone-forming pollutants. [It] does not exist to allow California to address national and global issues such as climate change,” EPA said.

EPA and NHTSA’s joint action becomes effective 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register, which was expected in the next few days. California officials indicated on Sept. 18 that the state would sue if federal agencies tried to implement Trump’s strategy.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@endeavorb2b.com.

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