March 8, 2017

Any attacks on California’s authority to set more stringent vehicle standards will likely be deferred for a few months. The White House has been considering scenarios including an executive order concerning vehicle GHGs and possibly targeting California’s GHG standards as an intrusion on the DOT’s authority to set fuel standards.

See excerpts from an article published in Inside EPA below:

The administration’s likely course of action could allow for a narrower initial debate on administration plans to address EPA’s January determination to retain the vehicle standards as applied to model year (MY) 2022-2025 vehicles — an effort that will relaunch a regulatory process that could ultimately weaken the standards but defer direct engagement on California’s special Clean Air Act waiver of federal preemption.

But it would likely prove only a temporary pause in a move to attack California’s longstanding status as an innovator on vehicle regulations, given that the Golden State’s current status creates significant leverage against any efforts to significantly weaken the GHG limits.

One source closely following the issue tells Inside EPA that while a move to reopen EPA’s vehicle determination on MY 2022-205 vehicles appears imminent, the administration has decided to defer until “later” any move against California’s waiver. The source says that the matter of targeting California’s waiver is “decided,” but appears to be at least several months away.

A California legislative source, meanwhile, cites “rumors” that the Trump administration has decided to table any changes to the state’s waiver until next year. But the source declined to comment more specifically on the issue until more clarity emerges from the Trump team.

An EPA spokesperson says on the waiver issue, “we don’t have any information to offer at this time.”

Whatever — and whenever — the administration decides on the state’s waiver, observers on multiple sides of the issue regard California’s current authority as a major barrier to throttling back the GHG standards”


“But automakers to date have publicly asked the Trump EPA to revisit a narrower issue — the final MY 2022-2025 determination — arguing that EPA acted in a precipitous matter in the closing days of the Obama administration to curtail a promised mid-term review of vehicle standards that was scheduled to last until April 2018.

Even without revisiting EPA’s GHG rules, DOT is still required to conduct its own mid-term evaluation of closely related fuel economy regulations, due to statutory differences between DOT and EPA authorities, providing another potential venue to seek flexibility for the auto sector.

But EPA’s defenders, including Senate Democrats, have made clear that they will fight to both preserve the underlying rules — which remain in place unless the Trump administration undertakes a rulemaking to reverse them — and protect California’s statutory authority to adopt its own vehicle GHG program.”

“Automakers also have multiple routes to pursue flexibility that fall short of any fight over the California waiver — which would inevitably take years and play out in the courts. They include reopening the mid-term review, as well as the pending petitions to EPA and DOT seeking a variety of ways to implement “harmonization” of their programs. — Doug Obey (”