EPA reinstates Calif.’s authority to set vehicle emissions rules, ZEV mandates

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A December draft of California’s clean cars rule shows the state aims to reach 61 percent ZEV sales by 2030, which is higher than Biden’s goal of 50 percent ZEV sales nationwide by the end of the decade.

Biden’s executive order last year also directed a review of fuel-efficiency standards for light vehicles.

The EPA in December finalized a tougher-than-expected rule on vehicle greenhouse gas emissions for the 2023 through 2026 model years that could act as a regulatory driver for speeding up the industry’s electrification plans.

NHTSA is expected to issue its rule on fuel economy standards this month.


Legal battle

In a 2019 lawsuit, California and 23 other states and environmental groups challenged the Trump administration’s decision that federal law prevents California from setting its own rules.

A group of automakers — including General Motors, Stellantis, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru and Toyota — and the National Automobile Dealers Association intervened in the lawsuit, with the goal of supporting one national fuel economy and greenhouse gas program.

In November 2020, GM withdrew its support of the Trump administration in the suit. NADA and the remaining automakers withdrew in February 2021.

A handful of automakers — Ford Motor Co., BMW, Honda, Volkswagen and Volvo — sided with California in 2020 to meet stricter vehicle emissions standards through the 2026 model year.

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During his confirmation hearing, Regan told U.S. senators he would work to ensure states can set their own standards.

In July, a group of 16 Republican attorneys general urged the EPA to not reinstate California’s waiver. They argued that any attempt to restore the 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.”

Sixteen other states and the District of Columbia have adopted California’s stricter vehicle emissions standards, representing more than one-third of all light-vehicle sales in the U.S.

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