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Attorney General Bonta: NHTSA Must Repeal Trump-Era Attack on California Authority to Set Clean Car Standards

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) today led a coalition of 22 attorneys general and the cities of Oakland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose in urging the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) to repeal a Trump-era rule, known as the “Preemption Rule,” that purported to preempt California’s greenhouse gas and zero-emission-vehicles (ZEV) standards. California's standards have been adopted by states representing more than one-third of the U.S. automobile market and have resulted in emissions reductions of hundreds of thousands of tons annually. In their letter, the coalition argues that NHTSA lacked authority under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act to promulgate the Preemption Rule and that the rule must be repealed.

"As California braces for another extreme drought and deadly wildfire season, the dire realities of the climate crisis are impossible to ignore – and as the number of 'bad air' days in California goes up not down, it is communities that live at the intersection of poverty and pollution that are disproportionately bearing the burden," said Attorney General Bonta. "That's why we're urging the Biden Administration to swiftly repeal the ill-conceived – and blatantly unlawful – Trump-era Preemption Rule. California’s greenhouse gas and zero-emission vehicle standards are some of the best tools we have for reducing emissions and protecting the health of our communities."  

“We look forward to NHTSA repealing its unfounded and illegal constraints on states’ rights to protect the health of their residents, address climate change, and support a transportation system that is both equitable and innovative, “ said CARB Chair Liane Randolph.

California’s greenhouse gas and ZEV standards, core components of its Advanced Clean Car Program, are critical to the fight against climate change, for improving air quality and protecting public health, and for driving technological innovation. As California cities continue to dominate the American Lung Association’s list of places with the worst air quality in the nation, the state’s Advanced Clean Car Program is an essential component of the state’s effort to reduce emissions and ensure that every Californian lives in a community that is healthy and safe. Fifty years of experience has shown that the adoption of vehicle emissions standards not only reduces vehicular pollution in the present but drives the development and deployment of technologies that enable further cost-effective emission reductions in the future.

In the comment letter, the coalition argues that NHTSA must repeal the Preemption Rule because NHTSA lacked authority to promulgate it in the first place and should do so for the additional reason that the rule was an unprecedented and unwarranted attack on longstanding state laws central to California and others’ efforts to protect their residents from the harmful effects of air pollution and climate change. 

Attorney General Bonta and the California Air Resources Board are joined the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia, as well as the city attorneys of Oakland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose, in filing the comment letter.

A copy of the comment letter can be found here.