Energy & Environment

EPA restores California’s ability to set stricter clean car standards

Traffic is seen due to the I-66 widening project near Fairfax, Va., on June 2
Greg Nash

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Wednesday it would reinstate California’s authority to set its own clean car standards after the state’s authority was revoked by the Trump administration.

These standards, which have been adopted by other states, have been more stringent than federal standards and are expected to push the market toward electric vehicles.

The EPA’s action allowed California to once again set its own limits on how much planet-warming gases cars can emit and mandate a certain amount of electric vehicle sales.

The EPA also reinstated the ability of states to use the California standards instead of the federal standards.

“Today we proudly reaffirm California’s longstanding authority to lead in addressing pollution from cars and trucks,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

He added the move reinstates “an approach that for years has helped advance clean technologies and cut air pollution for people not just in California but for the U.S. as a whole.”

In 2019, the Trump administration revoked a waiver that allowed California to set its own vehicle standards and argued that having one standard for the whole country provided more certainty for the automotive industry.

At that time, the industry was divided, with some automakers siding with the Trump administration in litigation and others inking a deal with California to undercut Trump-era clean car rollbacks.

On Wednesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) celebrated the decision.

“I thank the Biden Administration for righting the reckless wrongs of the Trump Administration and recognizing our decades-old authority to protect Californians and our planet,” Newsom said in a statement. 

“The restoration of our state’s Clean Air Act waiver is a major victory for the environment, our economy, and the health of families across the country that comes at a pivotal moment underscoring the need to end our reliance on fossil fuels,” he added.

And the EPA argued that the Trump administration’s move was “inappropriate,” saying that the waiver didn’t contain factual errors, so it shouldn’t have been revoked, among other arguments.

The agency’s decision is not a surprise, as it had previously said last year that it would reconsider the Trump-era decision. At the time, Regan called the Trump move “legally dubious and an attack on the public’s health and wellbeing.”

The Transportation Department already completed actions it needed to do to reinstate California’s waiver late last year.

Updated at 3:05 p.m.

Tags California car emissions standards EPA Gavin Newsom Michael Regan Trump administration

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