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Consumer Reports: NHTSA proposal to withdraw rule preempting states from setting emissions standards is important step for consumers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today proposed to withdraw claims of preemption over state emission standards and to repeal related regulations. The existing rule attempted to block 14 states from enforcing standards as authorized under the Clean Air Act, which is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).


David Friedman, Vice President, Consumer Reports, said, “We welcome this as an important step on the road to eliminating emissions from cars and trucks with money-saving clean car technology. NHTSA should now quickly move to finalize its proposal and EPA should quickly reinstate the related Clean Air Act waiver. This waiver will again empower states to save consumers money and protect their residents from greenhouse gases and other emissions.


“NHTSA’s claim of preemption should never have been made in the first place. In addition to the procedural reasons stated by NHTSA, the agency has no jurisdiction over emissions standards and related regulations. The preemption claim was therefore beyond its authority. As the Supreme Court made clear in Massachusetts vs EPA, EPA’s Clean Air Act authority, under which states set greenhouse gas, zero emission vehicle and other pollution standards, is independent of NHTSA’s fuel economy authority under Energy Policy and Conservation Act.(1)


“Similarly, EPA should never have withdrawn its waiver for these same state standards. EPA has granted state waivers more than 50 times since they were first established in 1967. Rescinding the waiver created uncertainty for consumers and put billions in savings and emissions reductions at risk for states comprising more than one-third of the US population.


“State leadership under the Clean Air Act has helped improve public health and drive the auto industry towards a clean car revolution that will drive down consumer costs, expand consumer choice and reduce global warming pollution. We look forward to the EPA restoring states authority to deliver these benefits and protect their citizens as soon as possible this year.


“Once these steps are completed, EPA should restore the Obama-Biden greenhouse gas standards through 2025 and establish new standards to cut those emissions 60% by 2030. These steps will save consumers $1.6 trillion while eliminating 10 gigatons of global warming pollution.”


(1) See Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497, 532 (2007) (“EPA has been charged with protecting the public’s ‘health’ and ‘welfare,’ 42 U.S.C. § 7521(a)(1), a statutory obligation wholly independent of DOT’s mandate to promote energy efficiency. See Energy Policy and Conservation Act, § 2(5), 89 Stat. 874, 42 U.S.C. § 6201(5).”).


Contact: David Butler, david.butler@consumer.org