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U.S. EPA & NHTSA Move to Repeal SAFE-1 Rules on Light Duty Vehicles

In April, the U.S. EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s separately announced proposed rulemakings to repeal the previous administration’s light-duty motor vehicle regulations that were part of the “The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule Part One: One National Program” (SAFE 1). The Trump Administration in SAFE-1 adopted rules that preempted states from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from new vehicles and from imposing zero emission vehicle sales mandates, reasoning that these regulations were preempted because they “related to” fuel economy. EPA in turn revoked California’s wavier to implement greenhouse gas emission standards in part because they conflicted with NHTSA’s fuel economy rules and because EPA believed California did need the standards to “meet compelling and extraordinary conditions.”

In the case of NHTSA, the notice proposes to repeal the regulatory text as well as findings that were part of the formal record adopted by the Trump Administration in order to restore NHTSA’s regulations to their previous status. NHTSA does not propose or provide any new guidance on federal preemption as it relates to greenhouse gas emission standards or ZEV mandates and is careful not to limit how it might address such issues in the future. NHTSA’s notice lays the foundation for rejecting the Trump Administration’s preemption regulations by taking the position that NHTSA does not have statutory authority to promulgate such regulations and therefore the prior administration preemption rules went too far. Comments on NHTSA’s proposal are due 30 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register. The prepublication notice is available at: NHTSA Notice SAFE-1

EPA’s notice requests comments on whether the revocation of the California waiver for greenhouse gas emission standards and zero emission vehicle mandates was improper and therefore should be rescinded. EPA essentially takes the position that the Trump Administration’s regulations considered factors that were not previously considered for waivers and that are inconsistent with the Clean Air Act’s criteria for reviewing waivers. EPA will hold a public hearing on June 2nd. Persons interested in testifying at the hearing will be limited to 3 minutes and must notify EPA by May 25th of their intent to testify. Formal comments are due July 6th. The EPA notice is available at: EPA Notice SAFE-1.

NGVAmerica previously did not comment on preemption or the waiver and currently does not anticipate commenting on either but likely will comment on any proposed revisions to SAFE-2, which addresses the stringency of federal greenhouse gas and fuel economy regulations for light-duty motor vehicles. The Biden Administration is expected to revisit those regulations sometime later this year.