Biden Administration Proposal Undoes Trump-Era Efforts to End State Vehicle Emissions Authority

Statement by Michelle Robinson, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Apr 26, 2021

WASHINGTON (April 26, 2021)—The Biden administration has taken action to restore state authority to set vehicle emissions standards. These proposals would reverse legally dubious efforts by the previous administration to attack state vehicle standards and undermine efforts to fight climate change. Today, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposal re-authorizing the waiver for stronger state vehicle pollution standards as allowed under the Clean Air Act. This follows another proposal, issued last Thursday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to rescind a Trump administration rule that incorrectly claimed that federal law preempted state vehicle standards. Together, these actions would—if finalized—restore the role of states in controlling pollution from cars and trucks and undo the foundation of the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back vehicle standards nationally. It’s a critical first step towards a strong, forward-looking vehicle policy, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Michelle Robinson, director of the Clean Transportation Program at UCS.

“The Biden administration has made it clear that they’re trying to undo the damage of the last four years and advance better policies to reduce pollution, save drivers money at the pump, and fight climate change. Transportation is the largest source of global warming pollution in the country and this action recognizes the important role of states in setting a bar for strong federal vehicle standards.

“For years, national vehicle standards have been successful at delivering cleaner cars to drivers every year. When they came into office in 2017, the Trump administration made no secret of their intention to undo these standards—and they started with a convoluted and underhanded effort to take state governments out of the process. Their efforts to dismantle one of the most significant climate policies on the books went further than even some automakers were requesting. And across the country, state leaders disregarded the Trump administration’s bad legal arguments and bad policies, with more states than ever joining together to support strong clean-car rules.

“Today, the Biden administration is beginning the necessary process of unraveling the former administration’s attacks on vehicle standards. But this is just a first step. Now it’s time to go further—undo the Trump rollback, reinstate strong national standards for the near-term and establish ambitious standards for 2026 and beyond. We need a suite of policies and investments to build a cleaner future. We can, and must, cut emissions from cars and trucks and accelerate the transition to an electrified, zero-emission transportation system.”