Missouri Department of Agriculture
P.O. Box 630
Jefferson City, MO 65102-0630
Dear Mr. Hooker:
This responds to your question about whether the State of Missouri has authority to promulgate regulations relating to the safety of motor vehicles powered by alternative fuels, particularly compressed natural gas (CNG). The short answer is that while Missouri is generally preempted in this area, it could issue its own more stringent safety standard for State-owned vehicles.
Federal law will preempt a State law if (1) there is a Federal safety standard in effect, (2) the State law covers the same aspect of performance as that Federal standard, and (3) the State law is not identical to the Federal standard. Specifically, section 30103(b) of Title 49 of the United States Code states that
(b) Preemption. - (1) When a motor vehicle safety standard is in effect under this chapter, a State or political subdivision of a State may prescribe or continue in effect a standard applicable to the same aspect of performance of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment only if the standard is identical to the standard prescribed under this chapter. However, the United States Government, a State, or a political subdivision of a State may prescribe a standard for a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment obtained for its own use that imposes a higher performance requirement than that required by the otherwise applicable standard under this chapter.
State safety standards applicable to CNG fuel system integrity are generally preempted by Federal law. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued Federal motor vehicle safety standard (FMVSS) No. 303, Fuel system integrity of compressed natural gas vehicles. (59 FR 19659, April 25, 1994, copy enclosed). The Standard specifies frontal barrier and rear barrier crash tests conducted at 30 mph and a lateral moving barrier crash test conducted at 20 mph. The Standard applies to passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks and buses that have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,000 pounds or less and use CNG as a motor fuel. It also applies to school buses regardless of weight that use CNG as a motor fuel. The Standard takes effect September 1, 1995. Accordingly, after September 1, 1995, Missouri could only issue its own safety standard applicable to CNG vehicle fuel system integrity if the State safety standard is identical to FMVSS No. 303. The one exception to
requiring such identical standards is that Missouri could prescribe a standard for motor vehicles obtained for its own use, provided the State law imposed a higher performance requirement than the level of performance prescribed by FMVSS No. 303. Thus, Missouri could issue its own more stringent safety standard for State-owned vehicles.
NHTSA further notes that Missouri is free to issue safety standards applicable to the fuel system integrity of vehicles powered by other alternative fuels (e.g., liquid propane, hydrogen), since the agency has not issued any FMVSS applicable to other alternative fuels.
I hope you find this information helpful. If you have any other questions, please contact Marvin Shaw at this address or by phone at (202) 366-2992.
John Womack Acting Chief Counsel