D.C. Circuit Stays Litigation over EPA Rescission of California Waiver to Regulate Vehicle Emissions

On February 8, 2021, the D.C. Circuit issued an order granting the Biden administration’s motion to stay litigation over Part 1 of the Trump-era Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles (SAFE) Rule. The order was issued in Union of Concerned Scientists v. NHTSA (No. 19-1230) and consolidated cases. As detailed in our earlier alerts, Part 1 of the SAFE Rule rescinded the waiver EPA granted California to regulate vehicle greenhouse gas emissions and to implement a zero-emission vehicle program. Part 2 of the SAFE Rule finalized new standards for corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) and carbon dioxide emissions for passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks sold from model years 2021 through 2026.

This stay is one of the first of many that will likely be requested by the Biden administration in litigation challenging Trump-era rules. Consistent with President Biden’s executive order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis, EPA and NHTSA are now evaluating whether and how to replace the SAFE Rule. Stakeholders should watch for the Biden administration to seek to stay other legal challenges to the SAFE rule and move expeditiously on a replacement rule.

Beveridge & Diamond’s Mobile Source Emissions group has experience in all aspects of mobile source emissions regulation and litigation. For over two decades, the firm has engaged in a host of matters involving rulemakings, regulatory interpretation, compliance, enforcement defense, litigation, and advocacy with respect to automobiles and light-duty vehicles (gasoline, diesel, and electric), heavy-duty vehicles, non-road engines and equipment/vehicles, and commercial aircraft and marine engines. Visit our Biden Administration Resources page for additional resources and information on upcoming events. For more information, please contact the authors.