17 States File Complaint Challenging Constitutionality of California’s Advanced Clean Fleets Regulation

On May 13, 2024, 17 states filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California challenging California’s Advanced Clean Fleets (ACF) regulation.

ACF aims to achieve a fully zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicle fleet in California by the mid-2040s by, among other provisions, setting requirements for a phased transition of fleets to zero-emission vehicles beginning in 2025 and mandating that no internal-combustion trucks can be sold in California after 2035. In the complaint, the Plaintiff States argue ACF will cause significant harmful effects nationwide, such as the disruption of supply chains, slowing of interstate transportation, increased prices on goods nationwide, and imposition of nationwide costs on taxpayers and state governments.

Such a regulation, the states claim, is unconstitutional under the Dormant Commerce Clause as it burdens instrumentalities of interstate transportation (trucks) and imposes disproportionately higher costs on fleets with significant operations outside of California. The Plaintiff States also allege ACF is expressly preempted by the Clean Air Act (CAA), and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) cannot receive a preemption waiver from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under CAA Section 209(b) for these reasons:

(1) The preemption waiver covers only regulations aimed at pollutants creating local conditions unique to California (not those banning entire technologies to reduce greenhouse gases).

(2) ACF must be, but is not, consistent with EPA’s power to regulate emissions, as EPA only has the power to set “standards” for emissions — not wholesale bans on certain vehicles.

(3) The preemption waiver clause violates the equal sovereignty states are afforded under the Constitution by allowing only California to enact its own standards.

Finally, the states argue that ACF is also preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 because it will cause motor carriers to charge increased prices to offset compliance expenses and change their routes and services to accommodate the charging needs of electric vehicles. The Plaintiff States request that the court declare ACF unenforceable and issue an injunction enjoining CARB from implementing or enforcing ACF.

This is the first challenge to ACF by other U.S. states, but other pending challenges asserting federal preemption and administrative state law claims are ongoing. CARB has not enforced ACF since it went into effect on January 1, 2024, as it awaits its requested preemption waiver from EPA or a ruling that such a waiver is unnecessary.

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