Energy & Environment

EPA eyes reversal of Trump revocation of California vehicle emissions waiver

Traffic on I-66 in Virginia
Greg Nash

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reconsidering the Trump administration’s decision to not allow California to set its own vehicle tailpipe emissions standards, the first step in reversing the major climate rollback.  

The EPA on Monday posted a notice seeking public input on whether it was appropriate under certain laws to withdraw a waiver that allowed the state to set its own standards. 

The agency said in a statement that it’s seeking input “for the purposes of rescinding the action taken by the prior administration” and administrator Michael Regan indicated that he supports the restoration of California’s ability to set its own standards. 

“I am a firm believer in California’s long-standing statutory authority to lead. The 2019 decision to revoke the state’s waiver to enforce its greenhouse gas pollution standards for cars and trucks was legally dubious and an attack on the public’s health and wellbeing,” Regan said in a statement. 

“Today, we are delivering on President Biden’s clear direction to tackle the climate crisis by taking a major step forward to restore state leadership and advance EPA’s greenhouse gas pollution reduction goals,” he added. 

The agency also said Monday that it will be taking a separate action to reconsider a rule that weakened national vehicle emissions and fuel economy standards, and that it plans to propose a new rule in July. 

Not allowing California to set its own standards — which have also been adopted by more than a dozen other states — was considered a major climate rollback, as tighter tailpipe standards are expected to result in a greater share of electric or other lower-emission vehicles being sold. 

The transportation sector is the greatest contributor to climate change, making up 29 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. 

The EPA’s move follows an action last week by the Transportation Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to propose withdrawing its part of a Trump-era rule that preempted states from setting their own standards.

When it decided not to allow states to set their own standards, the Trump administration argued that it would promote regulatory freedom, certainty and economic growth. 

Opponents of the move said it would worsen pollution and contribute to climate change. 

Tags Climate change Environmental Protection Agency EPA Greenhouse gas emissions Joe Biden Michael Regan vehicle emissions
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