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CARB to revoke “deemed to comply” provisions, enforce California GHG standards

7 August 2018

In response to the US EPA’s proposal to weaken vehicle greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) posted a proposal to ensure that cars and light-duty trucks for model years 2021-2025 continue to meet California standards, if the federal standards become weakened.

“Dirty, gas guzzling vehicles are a direct assault on public health, and foreclose our ability to rein in air pollution and greenhouse gases,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “California will take all actions to ensure that the smart standards we developed in partnership with the auto industry to cut greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles stay in place.”

Under CARB’s existing regulation, adopted in 2012, cars meeting federal standards for model years 2017-2025 are “deemed to comply” with California standards. This provision had the benefit of creating a single national program allowing automakers to meet one set of fleet-wide standards throughout the nation, including in California and the 12 other states that have adopted California standards. Last week, however, the US EPA proposed to change the federal regulation and freeze vehicle GHG standards at 2020 levels.

The proposed amendment announced today would clarify California’s existing regulation to ensure that if the US EPA changes its standards, then automakers wishing to sell cars in California after the 2020 model year would need to meet California’s standards—and not possibly weaker federal GHG standards in the future. The “deemed-to-comply” provision was never meant to allow a massive federal rollback to weaken public health protections in California, said CARB.

CARB has requested public comments on its proposed amendments, and on potential flexibilities that might allow for continued compliance with the federal standards, or reward national actions to promote cleaner vehicles. The comment period begins on August 10 and continues through September 24, 2018. CARB will consider the proposal for adoption at its regular meeting on September 27-28, 2018.

California’s vehicle emissions rules predate the federal Clean Air Act (CAA) and the creation of US EPA. Due to the state’s severe air quality problems, related public health threat and large number of vehicles, the CAA preserved California’s rights to continue to set and enforce its own vehicle emission standards that are stricter than federal standards.

However, California must request a waiver from US EPA when its standards differ. More than 100 waivers were issued over the past 50 years—including a 2013 waiver for the California “Advanced Clean Car” regulations, composed of GHG standards, Low Emission Vehicle (LEV III) program and the ZEV program.

Under the EPA proposal, the agency would withdraw its 2013 waiver for the California GHG emission regulations, which would prevent the state from enforcing their own standards. If no compromise is reached between CARB and the EPA, the matter is likely headed for a legal battle.

“CARB remains committed to a national program that fulfills our mission to protect public health, welfare and the environment. That program is built on a robust technical foundation and sound economic analysis,” said CARB Executive Officer Richard Corey. “We continue to be open to discuss well documented technical analysis that provides real public health, environmental, and economic benefits including options that consider additional flexibilities.”

Currently, 12 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted California’s GHG emissions standards for vehicles. Colorado is also in the process of adopting them. Together, those states constitute more than one-third of the US new car market.

Source: CARB