Biden Bows Down to California: EPA to Reverse Trump Policy and Grant Waiver to Let California Impose More Stringent Emissions Standards for Cars and Light Trucks
On April 26, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is reconsidering the Trump Administration’s withdrawal of California’s federal Clean Air Act (CAA) waiver that previously allowed California to enforce emissions standards more stringent than set forth in the CAA and associated regulations. (https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-reconsiders-previous-administrations-withdrawal-californias-waiver-enforce.) In 2019, the EPA, under the Trump Administration, withdrew California’s waiver that allowed California to enforce stricter standards for car and light truck emissions of greenhouse gasses. The withdrawal was based on the EPA’s 2019 action titled The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule Part One: One National Program Rule (SAFE-1), which interpreted the Federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) such that California was deemed preempted from enforcing its own more strict emissions standards. The EPA plans to hold a virtual public hearing on June 2, and allow public comment on the Notice of Reconsideration until July 6.
In a related move, the Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a proposed rule on April 22, 2021, which would repeal The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule Part One: One National Program Rule (SAFE-1), which was used as the basis of the Trump Administration’s withdrawal of California’s waiver from the federal CAA standards. (https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.gov/files/documents/cafe_preemption_nprm_04222021_1.pdf.) The EPA’s reconsideration of California’s CAA waiver and the NHTSA’s proposed repeal of Trump-era policies demonstrate that the Biden Administration is committed to its stated goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The practical effect of these actions will be to allow California to enforce emissions requirements for cars and light trucks that are more stringent than federal CAA requirements.