EPA’s new waiver would let California do whatever it wants, again

The EPA is expected to reinstate a waiver that allows California to adopt more stringent vehicle exhaust emissions. The EPA’s move under President Joe Biden’s administration comes after the Trump administration waived the California Air Resources Board’s ability to override federal emissions standards in 2019.

The waiver would again allow California to operate independently of the EPA and become the most progressive state in greenhouse gas regulation and fuel economy standards. Over the years, CARB standards have been adopted by fourteen other states and the District of Columbia, representing more than 40% of the US population.

According to an EPA official who spoke with MarketWatch, the final decision on the waiver is expected shortly. “We are working to finalize a decision on the California waiver and expect to issue a decision in the near future.”

For decades, California was the only state allowed to issue emissions standards under federal clean air law. Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Washington DC have all adopted the CARB standards instead of federal standards.

The 2019 withdrawal of California’s EPA waiver was part of a broader rollback of Obama-era vehicle emissions standards by the Trump administration in consultation with major automakers. The Biden administration decided to begin the process of regranting the CARB waiver almost immediately after taking office.

In December last year, the EPA announced it would increase the efficiency criteria for cars and light trucks to 40 miles per gallon by the end of 2026. The previous target was 38 mpg . The EPA’s own fact sheet claims that the 2 mpg efficiency increase will prevent 3.1 billion tons of emissions from reaching the atmosphere. In 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order requiring all vehicles sold in the state to be zero emissions by 2035.

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