U.S. DOT Proposes Rule To Restore California’s Right To Set Its Own Vehicle Emission Standards

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced last week it is withdrawing part of a Trump-era rule that removed California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act to set their own stringent vehicle emission standards.

The newly proposed rule change would restore California’s authority to set fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emission standards for cars and SUVs, and to require automobile manufacturers to sell more electric vehicles.

The implications of restoring California’s legal authority to set vehicle emission standards reach well beyond California itself.

Thirteen states including New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Washington, Oregon, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia adopt California’s low emission vehicle (LEV), zero emission vehicle (ZEV) and vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards.

Twenty-two states joined a lawsuit last year to restore California’s air standard setting authority. If adopted, the NHTSA rule would render the lawsuit moot.

Meanwhile, California, New York, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington State and Rhode Island Governors wrote to President Biden this week to support stopping sales of new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035.

The Governors want Biden to be more aggressive than he has already called for in his infrastructure package, by setting standards to ensure 100 percent zero-emission sales of medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles by 2045.

Biden’s proposal would not phase out sales of gasoline-powered vehicles but would incentivize development of electric vehicles (EVs) and charging stations.

 EVs currently make up just 2 percent of U.S. vehicle sales, and the twelve states want to accelerate a transition to EVs with a phase out of vehicles that run on motor fuels.

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