EPA Challenges Cal Ban on Gas Cars
October 1, 2020
By Sarah Storkin
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler warned California Gov. Gavin Newsom that his recent executive order to ban sales of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035 is unrealistic, and possibly illegal.
The EPA granted California a waiver in 1975, which allows the State to set its own, stricter standards on vehicles. The EPA could presumably reverse the waiver at anytime.
Wheeler sent California the warning in a letter on September 28, 2020. Wheeler wrote that Newsom's order seemed "mostly aspirational" but warned that following through with parts of the order would require approval from the federal government.
"Your recent Executive Order (EO) establishing a goal that 100 percent of new vehicle sales be zero emission by 2035 raises serious questions regarding its legality and practicality," Wheeler began. "While the EO seems mostly aspirational and on its own would accomplish very little, any attempt by the California Air Resources Board to implement sections of it may require California to request a waiver to U.S. EPA."
"Beyond the significant questions of legality and the fact that consumer demand for the type of vehicle you would mandate has never met the aspirations of California's political leadership, your state is already struggling to maintain reliable electricity for today's demands," Wheeler continued. "California's record of rolling blackouts – unprecedented in size and scope – coupled with recent requests to neighboring states for power begs the question of how you expect to run an electric car fleet that will come with significant increases in electricity demand, when you can't even keep the lights on today."
Wheeler pushed Newsom to solve California's power and emissions issues through cutting regulations rather than adding to them.
"By setting realistic goals and maintaining a comprehensive awareness of impacts to the economy, we have achieved tangible environmental progress while improving the lives and livelihoods of our citizenry. I urge you to step away from commitments to singular technologies," Wheeler said. "While it is tempting for federal or state agencies to regulate with a particular technology in mind, it is far more productive to provide innovators the freedom to develop the technologies of tomorrow."