EV groups, air officials back Calif. tailpipe rules

Source: By Jennifer Hijazi, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Electric vehicle groups and California air regulators last week waded into a legal fight over the federal government’s efforts to prevent the Golden State from setting its own standards for greenhouse gas emissions from cars.

The National Coalition for Advanced Transportation, a group that supports electric vehicle infrastructure, hitched onto lawsuits launched by states and green groups against the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s move to preempt California’s ability to set stricter vehicle emissions limits than those imposed by the federal government.

The coalition members — which include Tesla Inc., Pacific Gas and Electric Co., and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions — said NHTSA’s move would undermine electric vehicle work in both California and more than a dozen other states that have adopted the same standards.

“NHTSA’s purported elimination of state authority through the Preemption Regulation adversely affects the marketplace for transportation electrification and deployment of advanced vehicle technologies across the country — undermining business opportunities for utilities, manufacturers, and infrastructure companies,” the transportation coalition wrote in its request to join litigation in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

A related legal challenge is also live in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, due to a dispute over the proper venue for the case.

NHTSA, which is part of the Department of Transportation, invoked the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act in its proposal to block California from setting stronger tailpipe rules.

EPA, meanwhile, has said it will withdraw California’s Clean Air Act waiver enabling the state to set tougher pollution benchmarks. That move is subject to a separate round of legal wrangling.

Calif. air regulators join the fray

Multiple California air officials last week filed their own lawsuit against NHTSA, joining environmental groups, 22 states and two cities fighting the Trump administration’s actions on California’s vehicle emissions standards.

Officials charged with managing air quality for Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California said in a Thursday lawsuit that their main responsibility is to monitor air pollution from sources other than vehicles, but they also rely on reduced tailpipe emissions to meet overall public health goals.

NHTSA’s preemption rule flies in the face of federally mandated state powers to govern environmental concerns, the regulators said. Should EPA follow through on the waiver withdrawal, air officials said, increased vehicular emissions would make their job harder.

“The challenged Preemption Rule takes pains to declare invalid [zero-emission vehicle] mandates, including a rule regarding ZEVs on which Plaintiffs depend for their air quality planning,” the lawsuit said.

“Pollution increases directly and adversely affect the Districts, as they make more difficult and onerous each District’s task of devising plans to meet applicable air quality standards, imposing increased regulatory burdens on Plaintiffs.”

Some automakers have backed the Trump administration’s move in court, though manufacturers like Honda are split over the potential for regulatory uncertainty from the rollback E&E News PM, Nov. 15).