Administration’s New Fuel Economy Rules Quietly Smack Down States’ Emissions Reduction Efforts

marypeters333.gifToday, The New York Times reports that the administration has proposed raising “car and truck fuel economy standards substantially faster than required” by Congress. But what appears to be a positive development will sharply reduce states’ efforts to regulate greenhouse gases.

Tucked away in the 417-page report, as the San Francisco Chronicle notes, the Department of Transportation (DOT) declares that more stringent limits on emissions from states are an “obstacle to the accomplishment” of federal standards and conflicts with federal law:

(b) As a state regulation related to fuel economy standards, any state regulation regulating tailpipe
carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles is expressly preempted
under 49 U.S.C. 32919.

(c) A state regulation regulating tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles, particularly a regulation that is not attribute-based and does not separately regulate passenger cars and light trucks, conflicts with:

1. The fuel economy standards in this Part
2. The judgments made by the agency in establishing those standards, and
3. The achievement of the objectives of the statute (49 U.S.C. Chapter 329)

But Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) won assurances that the energy legislation passed in December “would be neutral on whether California and other states could proceed with their own rules.” Pelosi reiterated yesterday that Congress has already decided to “reject the Administration’s position.”

The assault from the administration comes despite a federal judge in Vermont ruling in September that the state rules do not conflict with federal mileage standards, and a Fresno court in December saying California and the EPA can set limits on vehicle emissions. In the document, DOT said an appeal has been filed by carmakers, adding:

We respectfully disagree with the two district court rulings.

California lawmakers are outraged by the decision. State Attorney General Jerry Brown, for example, called it a “covert assault” on California’s greenhouse gas reduction efforts. Pelosi also condemned it as “completely unjustified.”


Warming Law notes “the document errantly tries to bolster the administration’s stance against California’s still-more-aggressive tailpipe emissions law, and ignores language in Massachusetts. v. EPA that rejected [the administration’s] purported supremacy over the state.

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