New York Law Journal,
Karen Meara and Christopher Rizzo,
June 20, 2018-
States and cities are striving to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in an era when the federal government is moving in the opposite direction. They can take some comfort in the fact that many sources of emissions—electricity generators, heating and cooling systems in buildings, and other stationary sources—remain within state and local control. Not so with vehicles, which account for 23 percent of GHG emissions in New York City.
Federal law pre-empts direct state and local regulation of mobile source or “tailpipe” emissions and now the EPA has proposed a substantial rollback of fuel efficiency and emission standards for passenger vehicles. While it remains to be seen whether that rollback (if enacted) will withstand legal challenge, state and local governments have found creative ways to reduce emissions from passenger and commercial vehicles without crossing constitutional lines. A prime example is New York City’s current effort to reform the commercial waste hauling industry by bidding out the right to operate trucks in specific geographic zones.