As some OEMs look to an emission-free future by ramping up production of electric vehicles, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reinstated a California waiver which allows the state to implement its own greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards and mandate to sell zero-emission vehicles for the 2017-2025 model years.
States have the authority under federal clean air law to seek a preemption waiver that prohibits states from adopting emission standards for new motor vehicles, according to the EPA.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the EPA’s choice to grant the waiver to California “reverses an attempt by the Trump administration to block state to use its vast market power to push the auto industry in a greener direction.
In its announcement of the waiver’s approval, the agency said it “concludes the EPA’s review of the first part of the 2019 rule on safer and more affordable fuel-efficient vehicles: a program rule (SAFE-1) by concluding that actions taken under the previous administration as part of SAFE-1 were decided in error and are now fully reversed.
“Today, we proudly reaffirm California’s longstanding authority as a leader in fighting pollution from cars and trucks,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. , in a press release. “Our partnership with States to tackle the climate crisis has never been more important. With today’s action, we’re restoring an approach that for years has helped advance clean technologies and reduce air pollution for people not just in California, but across entire United States.
The removal of the SAFE-1 interpretation of the Clean Air Act means that other states can now adopt California’s GHG emissions standards instead of federal standards, in accordance with Section 177 of the Clean Air Act.
“I thank the Biden administration for righting the reckless wrongs of the Trump administration and acknowledging our decades-old authority to protect Californians and our planet,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a written statement. . “Restoring our state’s exemption from the Clean Air Act is a major victory for the environment, our economy, and the health of families across the country that comes at a pivotal time underscoring the need to end our dependence on fossil fuels. California looks forward to partnering with the Biden administration to make a zero-emissions future a reality for all Americans.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta called it “a victory for Californians, a victory for the nation, and a victory for the planet.”
“Right now, we are on the edge of a cliff, and each day that we do not act, we get one step closer to falling,” he said in a written statement. “If we want to tackle the climate crisis, we will all have to do our part. And California’s standards — which have been adopted by 15 and counting states — are among the best tools we have to reduce emissions, drive technological innovation and protect public health.
California is known for its ambitious goals for air quality, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. With the waiver, the state’s Advanced Clean Car (ACC) program will now be reinstated.
“California’s ACC program includes both a low-emission vehicle (LEV) program, which regulates pollution criteria and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as well as a mandate to sell vehicles to zero emission (ZEV)”, The EPA said in its final decision. “These two requirements are designed to control smog and soot causing pollutants and GHG emissions in a single coordinated set of requirements for passenger cars, light trucks and medium passenger vehicles (as well as related limited requirements to heavy vehicles). Between 2013 and 2019, twelve other states adopted one or both of the California standards. But in 2019, the EPA partially withdrew this waiver…”
US Congressmen and several other state leaders applauded the EPA and/or the Biden administration for their action, including Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Nevada and Washington. Many business and association leaders also spoke positively about the change.
“Automakers are committed to working cooperatively and constructively with California and other states to ensure vehicles are efficient, clean and affordable for everyone,” said the Alliance President and CEO. for Automotive Innovation (AAI), John Bozzella, in a written statement. “Collaboration among governments at all levels will be essential to achieving our shared goals for a cleaner transportation future that benefits all communities and improves America’s economic competitiveness.”
Ford, General Motors and Audi USA also welcomed the action.
Bob Holycross, Ford Motor Co. Vice President for Sustainability, tweeted, “@Ford continues to be proud to be the only US automaker to have agreed to meet CA’s tougher emissions standards. It was the right thing to do before the last election, it is the right thing to do now, and we are committed to doing the right thing in the future.
GM’s global policy officer, Omar Vargas, said the company believes everyone should “have access to affordable, long-range electric vehicle options, and we are committed to working collaboratively with California to achieve a fair transport future We are all ready to put everyone in an electric vehicle.
Audi congratulated California and tweeted that restoring the waiver is “an important step [in] restore the state’s leadership role in driving towards an all-electric, zero-emissions future. At Audi, we will continue to lead on our side with one of the largest portfolios of all-electric vehicles in California and all 50 states.
Prior to the EPA decision, Newsom proposed in the fiscal year 2022-23 budget a total of $6.1 billion from various funding sources over five years for a set of ZEV-related proposals. Most of the proposed funding would continue and/or expand existing programs, such as heavy-duty and off-road programs, ZEV refueling infrastructure programs, and cleaner vehicle and mobility programs for households low-income and disadvantaged communities, according to California. Office of the Legislative Analyst (AJO).
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