Bill to Strip California of Vehicle Emissions Authority Opposed by White House

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The White House has expressed strong opposition to a Republican bill currently under consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives. This proposed legislation aims to curtail California’s longstanding authority to receive federal waivers allowing the state to establish its own vehicle emissions standards, particularly targeting the sale of new gasoline-powered motor vehicles. While the bill’s prospects in the Senate appear slim due to the Democrats’ prioritization of electric vehicle promotion, it may garner some bipartisan support in the House. The fate of the automotive industry is emerging as a pivotal political issue as the 2024 elections for both Congress and the White House approach.

California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) took a landmark step in May when it requested approval from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its plan to mandate that all new vehicles sold within the state by 2035 be either fully electric or plug-in electric hybrids. This move signifies a potentially accelerated phase-out of traditional gasoline-powered vehicles. The House bill seeks to eliminate the EPA’s authority to grant such waivers to California, where the state has previously received waivers for establishing emissions limits for various types of vehicles, including heavy trucks.

Republican Representative John Joyce, a vocal supporter of the bill, criticized what he referred to as “heavy-handed government intervention,” asserting that California’s proposal to ban internal combustion engine vehicles limits consumer choice and infringes upon Americans’ freedoms. The White House acknowledged that Congress had granted California the authority to regulate vehicle emissions over five decades ago but refrained from issuing a veto threat. Interestingly, the Biden administration has resisted endorsing a specific timeline for phasing out the sale of internal combustion engine cars and trucks, despite increasing pressure to do so.

Notably, former President Donald Trump, who is pursuing the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has repeatedly accused the Biden administration of aiming to force the demise of internal combustion vehicles. Meanwhile, the EPA has proposed stringent regulations to reduce vehicle emissions, forecasting that automakers will need to produce 60% electric vehicles (EVs) by 2030 and 67% by 2032 to meet these requirements, a significant shift from the 5.8% of U.S. vehicles sold in 2022 that were electric.

California’s zero-emission rules, if implemented, are expected to reduce smog-causing pollution from light-duty vehicles by 25% by 2037. These rules mandate that at least 35% of new cars sold within the state must be plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV), EVs, or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by 2026, with this proportion rising to 68% by 2030 and ultimately reaching 100% by 2035. A total of 17 states have already agreed to adopt California’s EV regulations, indicating a growing trend toward electric vehicle adoption.

Of note, CARB’s regulations would permit automakers to sell up to 20% PHEVs by 2035, provided they have a minimum 50-mile all-electric range. This flexibility aims to strike a balance between transitioning to cleaner transportation options and accommodating consumers’ preferences. The ongoing debate over California’s vehicle emissions standards underscores the broader national conversation about the future of the automotive industry and the role of government regulation in shaping it.


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