American Energy Alliance: Sorry California, You Don’t Get to Choose What Vehicles the Rest of America Can Drive

Earlier this summer American Experiment signed on to a coalition letter circulated by the American Energy Alliance supporting the Trump Administration’s efforts to prevent California from dictating fuel economy standards to the rest of the nation. Unfortunately, this is exactly what California bureaucrats have been doing, and it is increasing the cost of driving of Minnesota families.

AEA released the following FAQ on their website to address common misconceptions about the law, and we will be exploring the impacts on Minnesota in greater detail in the near future.

Common misconceptions about California’s unlawful waiver:

  • The administration is only withdrawing the Clean Air Act (CAA) waiver for tailpipe greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions granted by the Obama administration, as well as the related approval of the state’s zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate.
  • The administration is not withdrawing the numerous other CAA waivers granted over the decades applying to pollutants or other emissions sources.

This decision is well-grounded in law, in fact it was the Obama administration’s granting of the GHG tailpipe waiver that was unlawful:

  • The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, created by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) in 1975 in reaction to the Arab fuel embargo, mandates higher fuel efficiency for vehicles towards the goal of reducing U.S. reliance on foreign oil. The EPCA expressly preempts states from establishing their own fuel economy standards, or any regulations “relating to” fuel economy.[1]
  • The CAA, passed in 1970, includes a mandate for the regulation of tailpipe emissions of vehicles. Under the CAA, federal air standards also generally preempt state level standards. CAA does allow the state of California to seek a waiver of federal preemption in order to impose more stringent air standards under certain circumstances.[2]  This is permitted when the emissions cause a problem locally specific to California (e.g. smog in Los Angeles).
  • GHG emissions are directly related to fuel economy, practically one for one.  There is no catalytic convertor for GHGs, the only way to reduce tailpipe GHG emissions is to reduce fuel consumption.  Additionally, GHGs are not local to California, GHGs dissipate fairly uniformly throughout the atmosphere globally.Thus the CAA waiver does not apply for GHGs, rather the EPCA state preemption under CAFE standards applies.  The Bush administration correctly denied California’s CAA tailpipe GHG waiver request, and the Obama administration incorrectly reversed that decision.

This is not about state’s rights:

  • This is not a federalism issue.  Only one state, California, is permitted to make special rules under the Clean Air Act.  Those rules were then imposed on the rest of the country by the Obama administration through its merging of the Clean Air Act waiver with the federally preempted CAFE rulemaking process.
  • California’s ZEV mandate, which is only possible because of this unlawful waiver, also impacts all other states.  Because the ZEV mandate is fleet wide, carmakers sell electric vehicles at a loss in California to meet the mandate while charging the rest of the country higher prices for pick-up trucks and SUVs to cover the loss.
  • One state taxing and regulating the rest of the country is not federalism.