Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Waivering? Here is a Little Help

Yesterday came the news that the Trump Administration aims to do away with the State of California’s more stringent rules on automotive emissions. This subject arose a few weeks or months ago when the administration changed its own rules; the auto industry did not like that action; it would impose two different kinds of rules; those for most of the nation and those in one state. Regarding that word most above, please wait a moment.

News about this intended change refers to the word “waiver” or “California’s waiver.” This caused me to write this post. Two questions arise immediately. First, how come California can set its own standards for auto emissions? Second, if the California waiver will now be revoked, where is that word “waiver” coming from?

The facts are these. Automotive emission standards are set by the U.S. Clean Air Act (CAA). It was passed in 1963; for those who don’t understand dates starting with 19, 1963 was a long time ago, not quite 50 years. The word “waiver” is inside that law; more specifically it is called U.S. Code § 7543. State standards, and even more specifically it is paragraph (b).

The first paragraph (a) Prohibition begins by stating that—

No State or any political subdivision thereof shall adopt or attempt to enforce any standard relating to the control of emissions from new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines subject to this part. 

There is more detail, but that quote says enough.

The relevant paragraph (b) Waiver sets out the rules under which the U.S. Government may provide a waiver to paragraph (a) Prohibition to any State if that State already has such rules and if the State determines that the State standards will be, in the aggregate, at least as protective of public health and welfare as applicable Federal standards.
In other words, States may apply for a waiver if they have rules at least as stringent as the federal rules. For full details, here is my source.

It turns out that in total 13 states and the district of Columbia have all obtained waivers under the CAA. Therefore the removal of California’s waiver must after that be followed by similar actions against Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia (source).

I end with an observation unrelated to the substance above. Journalism, in our day, seems directed at people who already know more about the subject than the reporters. Since I’m rarely so knowledgeable, I have to do research. My number one slogan is: “Hands off Google.” No waiver will be granted to that rule.

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