10/19/2021 - Student Work

Is There Room for California in Clean Cars Regulations?

by Lia Cattaneo, JD/MPP 2022

California enjoys a unique status under the Clean Air Act (CAA)—a special provision allows it to create and enforce more protective standards for motor vehicles than the federal government, spurring much-needed action to develop cleaner cars. The Trump administration removed this authority and now the Biden administration is systematically working to bring the state back in.

The Biden administration is taking quick action to put light duty vehicles on a path toward electrification and meaningful GHG emission reductions. And, while replacing the Trump administration’s complacent federal standards is important for making progress on climate change, allowing California to be more ambitious can encourage innovation and reduce emissions even further.

The Biden administration has initiated steps to undo the Part I Rule: EPA requested comment on its announcement to reconsider the Part I Rule, and NHTSA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) reconsidering its position on EPCA preemption and repealing the interpretive statements made in the Part I Rule. As of this writing, neither agency has a subsequent action under interagency review. Until California has a waiver in place, the state cannot enforce its standards under the prior waiver and other states cannot follow California’s GHG standards.

In this analysis, Lia reviews the steps the Biden administration is taking to restore California’s waiver and explore how undoing the Trump administration’s Part I Rule raises complex legal questions.

Read the complete report here


For more on the history of California’s waiver and analysis of the Trump Administration’s Part I Rule, see Rethinking the “One National Program” for Clean Cars: Where Does the Biden Administration Go from Here?