The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Monday that it is “reconsidering the previous administration’s withdrawal of California’s waiver to enforce greenhouse gas standards for cars and light trucks.”
While this is being reported as headline news, not much has changed legally. The Pruitt/Wheeler EPA’s attempt to revoke California’s waiver was illegal and poorly conceived, and as such, they were not likely to succeed in their quixotic quest.
The Clean Air Act, the piece of federal legislation under which California was originally granted the waiver, has not been changed by Congress and does not allow the EPA to rescind that waiver. California’s right has been acknowledged in court, by Congress, and by the EPA several times over the decades, despite Republican attempts to deny it in the past (notably in 2008). Today’s press release notes that the former administration’s actions were “legally dubious and an attack on the public’s health and wellbeing.”
There was a lawsuit working its way through the court system with the Pruitt/Wheeler EPA and automakers on one side and California, 23 states, and several green energy organizations on the other side. But in February, the Department of Justice/EPA and all automakers dropped their support for the lawsuit, which led us to declare victory for California, as the lawsuit was dead in the water with no support.
So today’s announcement is more a recognition of enshrined federal law than a change in policy, despite what the previous administration’s EPA would have you think.
The EPA will start taking public comment on the move soon, through July 6. The agency plans to propose an official update to the last administration’s deceptively named “SAFE” rules (which weren’t actually safe, they would actually kill Americans and cost them money) in July of this year.
Luke Tonachel, director for clean vehicles and fuels at Natural Resources Defense Council, said:
Now we have a historic opportunity for the federal government to set standards that align with the leading states, protect people’s health, and combat climate change.
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