EMA Challenges EPA’s Reinstatement Of California’s Vehicle Emissions Standards Waiver

On May 13, 2022, EMA filed a petition with a federal Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. to review EPA’s restoration of California’s waiver of preemption under the federal Clean Air Act (CAA), which establishes federal regulation of motor vehicle emission standards.

The waiver for California’s Advanced Clean Car program allows the State to set more stringent standards than the federal government, including California’s greenhouse gas emission standards and zero emission vehicle mandate.

The waiver, granted in 2013, was withdrawn by the Trump Administration, only to be restored by the Biden Administration in March of this year.

The case will test whether California can continue to pursue its authority under the Clean Air Act to establish more stringent programs that will mandate electric vehicle use in the State and hasten the elimination of liquid fuels.

EMA joined a petition filed by the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) to challenge the reinstatement of the waiver. The petition was also joined by NACS and the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance.

A separate petition was filed by 17 states whose positions on the waiver’s reinstatement should closely align with EMA’s.

In restoring the waiver, the EPA determined that its prior interpretation of the Clean Air Act, which was used to revoke the waiver, was inappropriate and flawed.

Whether the Trump EPA was authorized to revoke the waiver will be at issue in this case, as will the legality of the Biden Administration’s reinstatement.

In resolving these questions, the Court of Appeals will likely decide whether any “compelling and extraordinary conditions” unique to the State enable California to go its own way in enacting more stringent greenhouse gas emission standards.

California was given special treatment in the Clean Air Act because of certain air quality issues unique to California, such as the elimination of smog. In reinstating the waiver, the EPA concluded that California met its “compelling and extraordinary circumstances” requirement, and the reasonableness of this determination will most likely be central to the Court’s considerations.

Adding to the importance of the decision is the Clean Air Act’s authorization for other states to follow California’s lead.

When the waiver was initially granted, some 14 states adopted California’s more stringent motor vehicle emissions rules– including Pennsylvania.

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