WASHINGTON—A group of 16 Republican state attorneys general are pressing the EPA to not reinstate California's waiver under the Clean Air Act, which allows the state to set its own greenhouse gas emissions standards and zero-emission vehicle mandates.
In a letter sent July 6 to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, the officials from states including Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia urged the agency to continue the policy under the Trump administration's Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule, which revoked California's authority to restrict tailpipe emissions and set ZEV mandates.
The attorneys general argue that any attempt to restore California's waiver would be "unconstitutional" because "a federal law giving one state special power to regulate a major national industry contradicts the notion of a union of sovereign states," the group wrote.
"This is not the United States of California," Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who led the effort, said in a statement. "To the extent that national standards are necessary, they should be set by the federal government."
The group's letter is in response to actions taken in April by NHTSA and the EPA to potentially reverse the Trump administration's 2019 decision to revoke California's authority to restrict tailpipe emissions and set ZEV mandates.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta—joined by the California Air Resources Board and a coalition of 22 Democratic state attorneys general, plus major cities such as Los Angeles and New York City—backed the EPA's proposal to restore the California waiver in comments submitted to the agency.
"Against all scientific evidence, the Trump Administration took it upon itself to undermine California's legal authority under the Clean Air Act to set state vehicle emission standards to address its pressing air pollution and climate challenges," CARB Chairman Liane Randolph said in a statement. "California's standards were adopted in concert with the Obama Administration to help curb the worst impacts of climate change and protect public health, especially in overburdened communities. We urge the Biden administration to move quickly to reverse U.S. EPA's illegal action."
The EPA is expected this month to propose vehicle fuel-efficiency rules that are likely tougher than the Trump-era standards.
Meanwhile, the auto industry has pledged to work with the Biden administration to establish a revised national program that includes California. A handful of auto makers—Ford Motor Co., BMW, Honda, Volkswagen and Volvo—sided with the state in 2020 to meet stricter vehicle emissions standards through the 2026 model year.
At least 13 other states also have adopted California's standards.
Last month, General Motors, which wants a single, nationwide emissions standard, said it now supports using California's emissions framework as a guide to federal policy, though with a greater focus on electric vehicles.