The Biden administration on Wednesday reinstated the ability of California and other states to impose stricter pollution standards for vehicles than the federal government, reversing a Trump-era policy that barred states’ authority to implement such stringent emission rules.
The decision was made by the Environmental Protection Agency in the form of a waiver, which paves the way for states like California and others under the Clean Air Act to go further than the federal government when it comes to regulating greenhouse gas emissions for automobiles.
Sixteen states plus the District of Columbia follow California’s standards. Together, they represent roughly 40% of the nation’s auto market. The waiver only applies to model years 2017 through 2025, at which point states will have to seek a new waiver, potentially under a new administration.
The move was largely expected under President Biden, given his focus on implementing more clean energy initiatives and tackling climate change.
Still, administration officials, environmental groups and Democrats on Capitol Hill lauded the EPA’s decision as a major step toward reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and forcing automakers to produce more fuel-efficient and renewable vehicles.
“California has worked hand-in-hand with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to drive life-saving air pollution reductions, while spurring invention and investment in technologies and materials that enable the next generation of motor vehicles,” said National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy.
Sen. Tom Carper, Delaware Democrat and chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said the new waiver will help the U.S. “meet our climate goals, this action will reduce pollution in communities across the country, save Americans money at the gas pump and strengthen our nation’s energy independence. It’s a welcome announcement that could not come at a better time.”
Republicans, meanwhile, derided the EPA’s decision as another policy of the Biden administration that would contribute to rising energy and fuel costs.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Washington Republican and ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, described the emissions waiver as Mr. Biden “putting a radical rush-to-green regulatory regime ahead of restoring America’s energy dominance and leadership.”
“This decision prioritizes stringency over safety and consumer affordability,” Mrs. McMorris Rodgers said. “Instead of unleashing energy here at home to help lower gas prices and help families pay for record-high inflation, President Biden is doubling down on more command and control over the cars and pickup trucks we drive, without any concern if families can afford the vehicles that meet his standard.”