November 28, 2022

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EPA sued by Republican AGs for reinstating California’s car emissions authority

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WASHINGTON — A group of 17 Republican attorneys general is suing the EPA over its decision to reissue a waiver allowing California to set its own auto tailpipe rules and zero-emission vehicle mandates that are more stringent than federal standards.

The attorneys general, led by Ohio’s Dave Yost, allege the Clean Air Act waiver violates the Constitution’s equal sovereignty doctrine.

In addition to Yost, officials from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and West Virginia have joined the federal lawsuit, which was filed last week.

The EPA in March reinstated the waiver and withdrew its portion of the interpretation of the Clean Air Act that would prohibit other states from adopting California’s more stringent vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards.

The action was driven by President Joe Biden’s executive order in January 2021 that directed the U.S. Department of Transportation and the EPA to reconsider the Trump administration’s 2019 decision to revoke California’s authority.

The EPA previously granted California the waiver in 2013.

“The Biden Administration has since repealed the Trump order and given California the go-ahead to set ‘green’ manufacturing standards, which in reality, crush the average American who is already facing astronomical prices at the pump because of the Biden administration’s failed policies,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a statement Friday.

Schmitt argued the agency “acted arbitrarily in failing to address equal-sovereignty issues.”

The EPA said it does not comment on pending litigation. A spokesman for Yost’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Automotive News.

In July 2021, a group of 16 Republican AGs pressed the EPA in a letter to not reinstate California’s waiver, arguing that any attempt to restore it would be “unconstitutional” because “a federal law giving one state special power to regulate a major national industry contradicts the notion of a union of sovereign states.”

Republicans in Congress also have remained steadfast in opposition to the administration’s auto emissions policies.

“President Biden’s strict, rush-to-green auto emissions regulations are yet another example of this administration putting radical environmentalists’ agenda ahead of hardworking Americans,” U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, GOP leader of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement in December.

Meanwhile, the California Air Resources Board is in the process of developing regulations that would accelerate a transition to ZEVs and strengthen emission standards for new light-duty cars and trucks sold in the state.

A proposal released last month is calling for ZEVs, including plug-in hybrids, to make up nearly 70 percent of new-vehicle sales by 2030 as part of an aggressive timeline mandated by Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom to phase out the sale of new gasoline-powered cars and light trucks and achieve 100 percent ZEV sales by the 2035 model year.

California’s proposed standards to curb vehicle emissions are more stringent than those finalized by the EPA in December — something the state is allowed to do because of the reinstated waiver. Once adopted by the Air Resources Board, the regulations must be approved by the EPA.

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