The Biden administration is moving to keep a campaign promise by reversing a Trump-era rule that would have voided California’s ability to set its own rules on emissions, while reducing the overall importance of CAFE or fuel economy that have been critical to the industry for the past half century.
California has a long history of setting its rules on air pollution, having battled with carmakers for the more than a half century about the rules. The Trump administration sought to get around California’s rules with a new set of federal rules with the tepid support of several key automakers, notably General Motors and Toyota.
However, the rules were challenged in court while automakers withdrew their support, leaving it wide open to attack.
California retaining ability to set emissions standards
“The transportation sector is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases in our economy – which means it can and must be a big part of the climate solution,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a statement. “This proposed rule would be an important step towards protecting public health and combating climate change.”
Now the rules are being rendered moot as the Biden-run U.S. Department of Transportation last week posted a notice that it intended to void the Trump-era rules dating back to 2019 attacking California’s power to curb on control emissions on vehicles sold within the state.
The Trump administration’s “One National Program” in which NHTSA codified regulatory text and made additional pronouncements regarding the preemption of state and local laws related to fuel economy standards.
Change is in the wind
The acting Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Steven S. Cliff, stating the Trump-era exceeded the agency’s authority, and that “repealing those provisions will ensure that the public is not confused” going forward about the authority of state-initiated rules. More than a dozen other states now have rules that are fundamentally identical to California.
The officials posting of the rules to the Federal Register will open a 90-day comment period.
However, automaker generally have come to accept they will have to deal with California rule-making power. In addition, California’s rules track closely with the rules on greenhouse gas emissions that are being implemented in China, the world’s largest market for new vehicles, and the European Union.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden also has announced that the United States is formally committed to cut carbon pollution by between 50% and 52% from 2005 levels by 2030.