Federal EPA Responds to Governor Newsom’s Ban

EPA’s Wheeler questions ‘legality and practicality’ of California EV order

By Alex Guillén

WASHINGTON EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Monday blasted California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order seeking to ban the sale of internal combustion engines in the state by 2035, writing in a letter that it raises “serious questions regarding its legality and practicality.”

Background: Newsom issued an executive order last week directing the California Air Resources Board to set rules to phase out cars that burn gasoline or diesel by 2035, which would require a significant jump in EV sales, even in the nation’s leading EV state.

The letter: In his letter, Wheeler noted that EPA has revoked the waiver allowing California to enforce its zero-emissions vehicle program, and the state would have to obtain a new one to enforce any regulation related to Newsom’s order. Legal experts agree California would face almost certain rejection from the Trump administration but could succeed if Joe Biden is elected in November. Wheeler stopped short of outright vowing to reject a request.

“While the EO seems to be 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,” he wrote.

Wheeler also questioned how, given recent rolling blackouts “unprecedented in size and scope,” California would “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.”

EPA did not immediately respond to a question about whether it had consulted FERC on the grid reliability issues raised in the letter, which fall outside the purview of the Clean Air Act.

“I urge you to step away from commitments to singular technologies,” Wheeler wrote. “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.”

Context: The EV fight is the latest between California and the Trump administration, which has argued that the state has focused too much on climate change and not on other environmental issues such as forest management amid a record fire season.

To view online: https://subscriber.politicopro.com/states/california/story/2020/09/28/epas-wheeler-questions-legality-and-practicality-of-california-ev-order-1318936

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