For fuel economy standards, one national program

Elaine L. Chao, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Elaine L. Chao, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Speaking to auto workers in Michigan two years ago, President Donald Trump pledged that his administration would review and revise ill-considered fuel economy regulations from President Barack Obama’s administration.

Those regulations made it too expensive for American families to buy safer, newer cars and light trucks. Average Americans simply cannot afford the vehicles they need to pursue their livelihoods and care for their families.

So, over the past two years, our teams of experts at the NHTSA, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the EPA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, conducted a long, thoughtful, transparent and detailed review of our nation’s fuel economy standards. And the public helped by providing more than 600,000 comments on SAFE, the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule that we proposed last August.

Now we are delivering on an important aspect of the president’s commitment to make the fuel economy standards (and all government regulations) work for the American people. The NHTSA and EPA have signed the One National Program Rule, which will ensure that the federal government can establish uniform fuel economy standards for vehicles across the United States, just as Congress intended. No state gets to opt out of these rules, and no state gets to impose its own policies on everyone else. To do otherwise would hurt consumers and damage our economy.

This action finalizes a critical part of the SAFE Vehicles Rule. This fall, we will publish the second part of the SAFE Vehicles Rule, which will set new national fuel economy standards. While this second part is not quite final, we can say that the updated standards will be good for public safety, good for American workers, good for the environment and good for American families.

The updated standards will not force automakers to spend billions of dollars developing cars that people don’t want to drive. The new standards will help make new cars more affordable. And they will ensure that American consumers still have a variety of choices when selecting vehicles that best suit their needs. The rule will strengthen our domestic manufacturing base by adding new car sales and supporting well-paying American jobs. And, most important, because newer cars are safer, the standards will save lives.

Pursuant to Congress’s mandate in the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, only the federal government may set fuel economy standards, and state and local governments may not establish their own separate standards. State laws that substantially affect fuel economy standards, such as tailpipe greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards and Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandates, are preempted by federal law.

In addition, the EPA has determined that it is necessary and appropriate to withdraw a 2013 Clean Air Act waiver that previously authorized California to pursue its own tailpipe GHG emission standard, or fuel economy standard, and ZEV mandate. As a result, these two programs are also preempted by the Clean Air Act, and cannot be enforced by California or any other state.

This new rule does not impact a number of California programs, including its Low Emission Vehicle program, designed to address harmful ozone and other forms of air pollution. This will allow California to focus its efforts on fighting the worst air pollution in the country. Perhaps, after decades of failure, California can work to actually meet EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards for pollutants like ground-level ozone and particulate matter.

With today’s One National Program Rule, the administration is standing up for all Americans, their needs and their choices. We won’t let political agendas driven by a single state be forced onto the other 49.

Elaine L. Chao is secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Andrew Wheeler is administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.