A group of Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday urged Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) leader Michael Regan to reinstate a vehicle emissions waiver for the state of California that was rescinded under former US president Donald Trump.
The waiver, made possible under the Clean Air Act, allows California and other states to impose stricter emissions regulations than are currently required by federal law. It also requires auto manufacturers to sell zero-emissions vehicles. California’s program, known as the Advanced Clean Cars Program, is “a long-standing program that allows California and the many other states that have adopted the program to implement more stringent emissions standards in order to improve air quality, protect Americans’ health and welfare, and reduce the pollution that is driving climate change.”
California’s authority under the Clean Air Act waiver has existed for decades, “when state officials acknowledged the smog enveloping Southern California as a public health crisis.” Since the 1960s, California has been a pioneer in vehicle emissions standards and fuel efficiency, with other states following its lead. Currently, the District of Colombia and 13 other states have adopted California’s zero-emission vehicle standards. Four other states are in the process of adopting the same standards.
Although the Democratic lawmakers stressed that the withdrawal of California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act was unlawful, a number of Republican state attorneys general wrote separately to Regan, arguing that a restoration of the waiver would be unconstitutional.
The letter from Democratic lawmakers stated:
The waiver provides important benefits to the entire nation. By enabling states to adopt standards to protect residents’ public health and welfare, the waiver has spurred significantly greater innovation and development of cleaner vehicle technologies. Similarly, California and other states’ adoption of its zero-emission vehicle program has been critical to fostering the development and introduction of electric vehicles, which are now available everywhere and reduce both pollution and fuel expenses for all Americans. These regulatory programs lead to life-saving air quality improvements, which is especially critical for people of color and low income communities, who experience disproportionate harm from motor vehicle pollution. The mounting threats to health and welfare posed by climate change makes the authority of the states to lead more important than ever. It is vital that the waiver be reinstated to allow pioneering states to continue the process of innovation in clean vehicles.
Regan has previously stated that he is “a firm believer in California’s long-standing statutory authority to lead.”