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California Promises to Fight EPA Plan on Car Standards (scientificamerican.com)
43 points by LinuxBender 28 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 77 comments



I wonder if this has real case law behind it. I’m not a lawyer but have done a bunch of HIPAA training and one of the key elements of that federal program is that where states are more restrictive with privacy and security, this takes precedence.

More restrictive emissions laws are to protect individuals and task corporations to be better, so it seems good to let states enact their own more restrictive rules.


Interstate commerce belongs to congress (Not the president!). Congress has allowed California to ban registration of cars that do not meet their emissions standards (other states are allows to take California's standards, but are not allowed to make their own). California can constitutionally create their own standards for cars made or sold in California, but because they are part of the US they have to register a car you bought in any other state which means their standards hurt local dealers.

Note that there has always been an exception to the rules: if you are out of state and your car it totaled you can buy a new non-California car and register it in California.


That’s the idea behind Federal vs. State government. The States are suppose to be able to regulate how they see fit as long as it meets the federal minimum. So yes, I think the same would apply to this scenario.


There is an example I am aware of that was in my history book (but that I am having trouble finding now). States would set conflicting sizes for tractor trailer mudflaps in what seemed to be a de facto attempt to regulate trade between states. This was found to be a violation of the interstate commerce clause.

The actions California takes may be considered similar, especially (as someone below mentioned) if previously acceptable cars are not grandfathered in. There is also probably a good case to be made if California law has an effect, intended or not, on non-Californian states.

There is also a federal rule (good faith and something) that states must, in general, recognize the licenses of other states (marriage, drivers, etc; but notably not concealed carry, which I think will be tested again).

Personally, on the one hand I am for states rights and the environment and very much do not like how the interstate commerce clause is used. On the other, a lack of agreeable regulation is detrimental to the states (and having one state force that regulation does not seem fair).


Oh cool! That’s an interesting point. Of course things are always more nuanced than they seem on the surface, thanks for sharing this.


See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_Faith_and_Credit_Clause and look at my other comment in the parent's chain.


Since it's about commerce, can California allow the purchase and sale of the less stringent vehicles but only allow vehicles/engines to operate on its roads that meet the higher standards?


No, that is "more against" the application of the interstate commerce clause than the logic I outlined above as it de facto is a prohibition on travel and interstate commerce. This is also explicitly covered by the full faith and credit clause (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_Faith_and_Credit_Clause, the thing I couldn't remember). It follows that states must recognize each other's vehicle registration, driver's licenses, and marriage licenses. It also sees use in chasing people across state lines for bogus tickets and for removing people's rights via protection orders. It lends itself to contradictory outcomes because it essentially says "all states are right."

If you were to instead ask "can you sell a vehicle that can't be registered" the answer is "yes." You can also make your own car and in so doing ignore most safety and emissions requirements.

There is a notable lack of small car manufacturers and a lack of case law on some of this. Some do mostly cosmetic work on existing models, and some sell "kits" and may help you assemble it "yourself" so as to qualify for a shopbuilt title.


This is just one of many examples of congress delegating it's law making duty to the executive -- normally so it can avoid any responsibility for it's actions. If the policy is not popular they blame the executive, the policy is successful they point to their delegation of power.

Hopefully, we'll see congress take back the reigns more and if anything delegate things to the states and instead of the executive.

The common excuse is that the expertise lies in the executive so they should control the rules. This can be easily answered by allowing the executive to draft the rules, but to have congress involved whenever they're changed.



How much does this matter if automakers are putting out electric cars and trucks that are more reliable than their gasoline cousins? People will buy the vehicle that provides the best value, won't they?


Any drop in gas prices is typically followed by an increase in purchases of gas inefficient vehicles.


I think it makes sense to limit how much impact one large state can have on the whole country. It sounds very much like California overstepping the government's authority to regulate interstate trade.

I know people in this case will want to support California because this has to do with emission standards. But look no further than the countless items that now print "Known to California to cause cancer" for another impact.

California is so large that it can practically dictate terms for the rest of the U.S. I do not believe that's a good thing, and I believe eventually there'll come a case that will make that abundantly clear, if it's not already.


Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

These are the states that mirror California's emissions standards.

We're not talking about one state. We're talking about the entire west coast of the US and the lion's share of the eastern seaboard.


And about 2/3rds of the population


Don't forget Colorado.


> It sounds very much like California overstepping the government's authority to regulate interstate trade.

The federal government allows California to set their own standard, and allows any states who want to follow the California standard. How exactly is that overstepping?


Because California knows that if it forces any car maker to make a car only for California emissions the cost of making any car will go way up. California would roll it back in an instant and start suing if all the manufacturers said ok, fine, none of our cars work for california, no cars for you.


There will always be other manufactures willing to build and sell cars that are legal in California.

> … the cost of making any car will go way up.

Citation needed.


Citation needed. [1] It's always cheaper to build two of the same thing than two different things.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economies_of_scale


Manufactures go both ways on this. There are a lot of cars sold in the world, and California is a large enough market that it is worth designing an emissions system that works for them. Sometimes they have one car that works everywhere, sometimes they have a California car and a rest of world car, sometimes they have a model that they don't sell in California (this is rare). It gets more complex in fact: cars in Brazil often have two fuel tanks, a small one for gas (starting), and a big run for ethanol (running when engine is warm), as just one example of a market that gets something special.

Most parts on a car are the same, and car makers know the differences. They often account for left vs right side drive in the design phase so the same general car can be sold either way. They often have many different engine variations that meet different legal or market needs from the same general engine castings. The trick is to figure out what variations are worth the cost and then manage them.


>It's always cheaper to build two of the same thing than two different things.

Not if the second variant is cheap enough and/or will be sold in enough volume to recoup the fixed costs (engineering, tooling, etc) and still turn a profit.

If that weren't the case you'd only be able to get cars in black.

Edit: Is my math wrong or is reality inconvenient today?


Recoup fixed costs is a requirement, but not cheaper to build. It can be more expensive so long as it recoups the costs. Cars often come with a choice of 4 vs 6 cylinder engine - it is cheaper to have just one, but some customers want the power from the more expensive 6, while others want either the cheaper or more fuel efficient 4 cylinder. Since enough of both variations are sold to pay for the costs they make both.


Seriously, look at the packaging of anything that California thinks causes cancer nowadays. Chances are it notes it, specifically because it's not worth the money to print different labels.

And those are labels, we're not talking about a car, which is obviously going to be more expensive.


> It sounds very much like California overstepping the government's authority to regulate interstate trade.

No, it's companies being pragmatic. If you want to sell in California you have to comply with certain standards. If you then want to create a separate, inefficient, polluting car to sell to the rest of the US where they don't care about those things, have at it. If you don't think that makes economic sense, then don't.

This is about as pro-states-rights as you can get.

> But look no further than the countless items that now print "Known to California to cause cancer" for another impact.

Nobody here cares about that.


Flip side of that argument is: why would many small states with few people dictate what level of air quality should 40M Californians get?


> I think it makes sense to limit how much impact one large state can have on the whole country.

You mean, much like Europe has had an impact on the whole world by introducing GDPR? Borders are no more when the issues are global. Privacy, health, wellbeing, …

When a group of people decides that something has an impact on their lives (health in this case, or anything else for that matter), and introduce regulation because the industry doesn't give enough fucks, what's so bad about it?


California is the fifth biggest economy in the world.

I would daresay that its impact on the country is too small, given its contributions.


I have to agree. I also think it's crazy how california is blocking old trucks from being registered. Imagine you have a 2009 truck, sorry it's 2020, you can't register it here.


Sounds fine to me. Just because it's a state and not a country doesn't mean you can do whatever you want there.


I mean by that logic as long as 49 states allow you to register a truck sold in 2009 that still runs and drives and hasn't been modified that it's ok? Imagine if it were a 2009 prius? Would you be ok with it then?

edit I guess I've been shadow banned for wrong think in here, can't respond to comments.


Yes, because in theory, to borrow a Republican talking point, the federal governments authority is explicitly limited to interstate commerce, defense and piracy on the high seas. This has nothing to do with any of those things, so each state is free to decide what they permit or deny within their borders, so long as it's, you know, constitutional.

Some states criminalize possession of substances others don't. Some criminalize certain behaviors and practices that others don't. Why should that stop at the freeways?


If California regulation de facto prohibits out-of-state cars from being sold or operating inside of it the rules may run afoul of the interstate commerce clause.

At least in the history book I used there is a direct parallel: a precedent setting case had to do with regulations about tractor trailer wheel mudflap sizes. States would set different conflicting values so that they could restrict the traffic through them (or force a waste of time before coming in).

There may also be another argument based on how states must, in general, respect each other's licenses (marriage, driver, etc; but interestingly not concealed carry, something I suspect will be tested again soon).


> If California regulation de facto prohibits out-of-state cars from being sold or operating inside of it the rules may run afoul of the interstate commerce clause.

Right, but in our scenario they're not prohibiting them, they're prohibiting registering them. That's different than the mud-flaps issue, which does actually seem problematic in my opinion for exactly that reason: it inhibits inter-state commerce.


The test is one that doesn't care about intent. If it can be found that, say, bespoke car makers (do they even exist?) based outside of California have a much harder time selling to California residents because of this law then it could be struck down. It would also be possible to use the lack of any small car makers as evidence against the law in question.


> edit I guess I've been shadow banned for wrong think in here, can't respond to comments.

Keeping your post visible while disabling replies is the exact opposite of what shadow banning is.


I must have been rate limited or something, it came back.


My dad didn't have any trouble registering his 2008 truck this year. Emissions standards aren't retroactive— if you take a car to get smogged it only has to meet the emissions standards from the year it was made


Absolutely false.

California has categorized entire model series (spanning years) as "Hugh emitter profile" years after release regardless of what your individual vehicle has ever measured. My small pickup truck is one such victim. I've had to get the full dynamometer test every other year for over 20 years, costing over $80 each time. It's always passed.


California decided that's not the case: https://www.ccjdigital.com/carb-to-begin-blocking-certain-tr...


Gotcha. My dad's truck weights less than 14,000 pounds so it sounds like he'll be OK.


it is just genius - Trump is going to solve the CA homeless crisis by bringing smog back to make the CA cities streets impossible to stay at for any prolonged amount of time.


six-dimensional chess at its highest levels.


I could see it playing out like this:

Obama, 2009: CA, you can keep setting your own standards.

CA: Great! OK car companies, by 2025 we want you to hit these numbers.

Car companies: Will do.

Trump, 2019: JK. You only have to meet the federal standards.

Some car companies: Awesome, thanks!

Next president, 2020: What, that's insane. CA, you can keep setting your own standards.

CA: Great. OK car companies, the 2025 targets are still in place.

Some car companies: surprised pikachu

I think any manufacturer who doesn't stick with California's standard, even if they're temporarily allowed to ignore it, is absolutely crazy. Higher standards seem absolutely inevitable, and I think it's corporate suicide to trust that the EPA will remained weakened and toothless.


Those who dont will have a cheaper car. This will either please investors (more profit) or help beat the competition in sales.


A cheaper car to buy, not a cheaper car to own


Fewer/simpler emissions systems would mean cheaper maintenance, no?


More or less. That's exactly why we're seeing a resurgence of big gas engines for medium trucks. Diesel has become less competitive for a lot of use cases due to increased emissions related maintenance (whereas they basically didn't have any emissions system 15yr ago).


Usually cars meet emissions standards by increasing their MPG, so you'd pay less for gas.


Dieselgate was manufacturers meeting performance and MPG figures at the expense of increased pollution. A lot of pollution does not trend directly with CO2.


How much? I've never had to repair anything related to the emissions of a car I own. The only difference I can think of is that some cars have a separate California-legal version of the catalytic converter than costs an extra $100 or so.


That's either because 1) you didnt have emissions testing where you are or 2) you didnt have a 15+ year old car. It can be a real burden on the lowest end consumer (often the poor) to deal with regulations around vehicles because they're often barely keeping something running.


> A cheaper car to buy, not a cheaper car to own

You're correct if you're speaking about the tragedy of commons issue with air quality...

But for the individual it should be cheaper _or equal_ to own. Certainly not more expensive


Sure it might be cheaper to purchase, but I'm not sure how a car that needs more fuel per mile to operate is less expensive to own.


the CARB is much less about fuel economy than it is about the composition of the emissions. Therefore it's mostly about tragedy of commons with air pollution


It takes a lot more than 16 months to design a car.


It takes a month to put together a software patch to limit the amount of regens a diesel engine has to do, or how much DEF it sprays into the exhaust. Suddenly the big three could have diesel trucks that perform 10% better on fuel economy because California isn't forcing EGR crap down their throats.


Diesel particulate emissions are a proven killer with a direct, immediate risk to human health. Even low-sulfur fuel and DEF doesn't really solve the problem. I would prefer to see CARB phase in a gradual ban on almost all diesel engines. We can meet transportation needs (including cargo) with a mix of gasoline, natural gas, and battery electric vehicles.

(There are a few limited cases such as medium sized marine engines where diesel is the only safe and practical option.)


> Suddenly the big three could have diesel trucks that perform 10% better on fuel economy because California isn't forcing EGR crap down their throats.

I can't find any definitive evidence that exhaust gas recirculation reduces fuel economy, though a sourced statement on wikipedia says there was a 3% drop in fuel economy when EGR was first introduced. Quora[1] also doesn't mention anything about EGR lowering fuel economy.

Regardless, environmental regulations are done for a reason. Reducing NOx is a very good thing.

[1] https://www.quora.com/Does-the-exhaust-gas-recirculation-sys...


By EGR, you mean the technology that keeps California's air breathable. Yeah, it's more expensive to do business here, because we want to be able to, you know, not die from air pollution.


Texas is 2nd largest population and doesnt have CARB. I'd guess wildfire emissions(smoke) are several orders of magnitude more dangerous than vehicles.


You mean Texas, that relatively flat, famously windy state where pollution can easily blow away, and yet still has some of the most polluted cities (https://www.click2houston.com/health/report-ranks-houston-am...)? It sounds like they could stand to have a CARB of their own.

> I'd guess wildfire emissions(smoke) are several orders of magnitude more dangerous than vehicles.

I can't take this seriously.


Very little of "cleaner air" effect stens from the presence of EGR.


We are seeing something like this playing out with coal. Despite the administration's attempts to bolster coal, plants have to plan for multiple decades away, and so they are generally getting shuttered all the same.


> Some car companies: Awesome, thanks!

The car companies are backing california.


Right, and so the Fed is suing them.


If California loses this fight, the next step is to just impose a 100% (or more) sales tax on any car that doesn't meet whatever standards it wants. Sales taxation is firmly established as state authority and the federal government could go pound sand.


People would just make the purchase out-of-state.

They're already doing this to avoid steep sales taxes on cars. Some people even keep their vehicle registered out-of-state to avoid registration fees as well.


You need residency to register a car. Also, if you purchase a car out of state it doesn’t matter. The taxes get levied when you register it.


Like everything else that's done by state law it varies by state. Some states require you to register any car that is primarily used and stored in the state.


I don't know about California, but in Washington state when you register a car that was previously registered in another state, you have to provide proof that you paid sales tax on it, and you have to pay a use tax if you can't do that. Presumably CA would just apply an identical use tax to cars purchased in any state without their standard.

Now, sure, some people could dodge the system, but they don't really matter: the point is to make it inconvenient enough for automakers that they only produce vehicles meeting the CA standard.


> I don't know about California, but in Washington state when you register a car that was previously registered in another state, you have to provide proof that you paid sales tax on it, and you have to pay a use tax if you can't do that

...and if you DID pay sales tax on it, but the rate is lower than the Washington use tax, you have to pay the difference.

Funny story about this. My Constitutional Law professor at the University of Washington School of Law had been at or near the top of his class at Harvard or Yale or whichever top law school he went to, then clerked at the Supreme Court. So he was pretty well versed in Constitutional law.

Then he accepted the position at UW, hoped into his newly purchased car, and headed cross country to Seattle. Washington's sales/use tax was considerably higher than that of whatever state he came from...and when he was told he had to pay the difference, he was outraged, and was sure this had to be unconstitutional.

He was quite surprised when he hit the UW law library to research this and found out that it was legal.


It's similar in CA. If you register a car from out of state, California still gets a cut. And California typically doesn't let you register cars from elsewhere that don't meet CA emissions standards (aka cars that have an "EPA" sticker under the hood but not a "CARB" one)


Not true. You can register cars purchased out of state, that are non-carb compliant.

See exemptions page: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/pubs/brochures/fast...


Most of the exceptions are pretty big life events (divorce, death of a relative, military PCS). That why I said "typically" in my comment, it's not something you can really do at-will


In Georgia it doesn't matter what taxes you paid in the state your moving from, you still must pay a title tax on the current market value of your vehicles.


the fact that some people break laws does not imply that we should not have them.




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