Carper asks EPA to require half of new cars to be zero-emissions by 2030

Carper asks EPA to require half of new cars to be zero-emissions by 2030
© Greg Nash

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperBiden comments add momentum to spending bill's climate measures  Democrats hope to salvage Biden's agenda on Manchin's terms  Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans MORE (D-Del.) on Monday called for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop national tailpipe emissions standards for new cars in line with those proposed by California.

The standards Carper called for would require half of all new light passenger vehicles to be zero-emission by decade’s end, and for all of them to be zero-emission by 2035.

In a letter to EPA administrator Michael ReganMichael ReganOvernight Energy & Environment — Biden officials announce clean energy plans EPA to assess health impacts of leaded aircraft fuel Biden administration calls on agencies to better guard against political influence on science MORE, Carper notes that Trump-era EPA rules both relaxed emission standards and authorized the federal government to overrule state-level emissions and electric vehicle standards.

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While Carper acknowledges the Biden administration has announced several steps to revisit those rules, he also cites moves by other countries, particularly China, that are “better preparing” for a transition away from fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

“If the U.S. does not establish a robust policy that leads to zero emission vehicle deployment … we will be at risk of losing our automotive jobs and industry leadership to other nations, as well as enduring unnecessary public health impacts from pollution,” Carper wrote.

“The future of automobile manufacturing sector is at a crossroads. The Clean Air Act provides sufficient authority for the U.S. EPA to rise to this challenge,” he added. “EPA can establish requirements on new cars that would significantly reduce air pollution harming communities, put the nation on track to maintain its leadership in vehicle technology, and make significant progress in fighting climate change.”

Carper, who has long been an environmental advocate but is not associated with the progressive wing of his party, noted that the standard would also be in line with numerous steps already independently taken by automakers. Ford, for example, has said all new vehicles sold in Europe will be electric by 2030, while Volkswagen has set a target of 70 percent electric vehicles in Europe and 50 percent in the U.S. and China by 2030.

California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomVirginia's Youngkin gets the DeSantis treatment from media Equilibrium/Sustainability — Solar-powered cars on the EV horizon Newsom vows crackdown: Rail car looting like 'third world country' MORE (D) announced the statewide standards in a September executive order, which also aims to require medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in the state to be zero-emissions by 2045.

"EPA appreciates the need for swift and meaningful action to reduce [greenhouse gasses (GHGs)] from transportation," an EPA spokesperson told The Hill. "EPA has already initiated the first step towards restoring California’s authority to implement GHG emissions standards and ZEV requirements for new motor vehicles. EPA has requested public comment on the topic and will hold a public hearing on June 2."

The comment period for the EPA proposal ends July 6.

"In July, EPA will propose revised GHG emissions standards for light duty vehicles through model year 2026," the spokesperson added. "We appreciate the information provided in the Senator’s letter and will be taking it into account as we develop our proposal."

--Updated on May 4 at 11:50 a.m.