The US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final action entitled the “One National Program Rule,” which will enable the federal government to provide nationwide uniform fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for automobiles and light duty trucks.
The action finalizes parts of the SAFE Vehicles Rule that was first proposed on 2 August 2018. (Earlier post.) This action is based on the premise that federal law preempts state and local tailpipe greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards as well as zero emission vehicle (ZEV) mandates.
Specifically, in this action, NHTSA is affirming that its statutory authority to set nationally applicable fuel economy standards under the express preemption provisions of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) dictates that such state and local programs are preempted.
For its part, EPA is withdrawing the Clean Air Act preemption waiver it granted to the State of California in January 2013 as it relates to California’s GHG and ZEV programs. California’s ability to enforce its Low Emission Vehicle program and other clean air standards to address harmful smog-forming vehicle emissions—i.e., criteria pollutants—is not affected by the action.
EPA said that the legal basis for withdrawing the California waiver is under CAA section 209(b)(1)(B), which covers compelling and extraordinary conditions. EPA 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 (an argument adduced by the Bush administration’s EPA when it denied California’s waiver request in 2007, earlier post); and
That are not caused by emissions or other factors particular or unique to California 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. The California waiver authority does not exist to allow California to address national and global issues such as climate change.
The agencies continue to work together to finalize the remaining portions of the SAFE Vehicles Rule, to address proposed revisions to the federal fuel economy and GHG vehicle emissions standards.
The action will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.