Federal Government Revokes California’s Clean Air Waiver
Local transportation plans and projects threatened 


September 30, 2019: On September 19, the federal government revoked the 2013 California Clean Air Act Waiver. The action by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration made it clear that federal law preempts state and local tailpipe Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions standards as well as Zero Emissions Vehicle Mandates. Because the action undid California’s ability to set its own fuel economy standards for vehicles, the action also invalidated EMFAC, the model used to determine the emissions impact of transportation plans.  

Part two of the government’s rollback of fuel economy standards is expected to come before the end of 2019, when it will make revisions to CAFE standards and GHG vehicle emissions standards, which are expected to freeze these standards at 2020 levels. 

On September 20, 2019, California in coordination with 22 states, the District of Columbia, and two cities filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia requesting the court grant permanent injunctive relief by declaring the preemption portion of the final rule unlawful. That suit is expected to reach the Supreme Court. 

The new rules will mean that the federal government will not certify SACOG’s 2020 MTP/SCS because without being able to use the EMFAC model, SACOG cannot demonstrate that the plans are on track to meet federal clean air rules. However, because the federal government offers a one-year grace period following the expiration of the March 2020 expiration of the 2016 MTP/SCS, currently approved projects can continue until March 2021. 

What happens then depends on the progress of California’s suit. You can  visit the CALCOG Policy Tracker for up to date information regarding the status of the SAFE Vehicles Rule (Part 1 and Part 2). 

For more on the background to the rule changes, see SACOG’s previous story on the SAFE rule.

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