EPA Chief Challenges California's Effort to Ban the Sale of New Gas-Powered Cars By 2035, Claims the State's Grid Cannot Support the Charging of Additional EVs
After former coal industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler was selected as EPA Administrator last year, rules and regulations have been rolled back at the agency, including efforts by Wheeler to loosen restrictions on pollutants and reduce the role of climate scientists in the agency's policy making processes.
The EPA chief is now focused on California, just days after the state's Governor, Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that bans the sale of new gas-powered vehicles beginning in 2035 in an effort to reduce greenhouse gasses and fight climate change.
In a letter to the state of California, Wheeler said the plan "raises serious questions regarding its legality and practicality" and said it could cause problems for the state's electrical grid. He also declared the move could be subject to federal approval, saying it "may require California to request a waiver to the U.S. EPA."
In his letter, Wheeler held up California's recent rolling blackouts as evidence that its power grid could not support the state's ambitious plan, which would require charging infrastructure for millions of additional electric vehicles.
"California's record of rolling blackouts – unprecedented in size and scope – coupled with recent requests to neighboring states for power begs the question of how you 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," Wheeler wrote.
Last month, California imposed rolling blackouts on two days affecting roughly 400,000 customers during an record heat wave which resulted in record high energy usage. As reported by Reuters, the state's grid operator blamed outages on a gas plant suddenly dropping offline, low wind power and a lack of imported electricity from other states due to scorching temperatures across the West.
Governor Newsom did not immediately comment on Wheeler's letter.
California's work to clean up its air pollution goes back decades. In 1966, California established the first tailpipe emissions standards in the nation. For years, vehicles sold in California were required to meet the state's more stringent emissions requirements, which exceeded even that of the EPA.
California already has the strictest emissions standards for motor vehicles on its roads, as well as the highest number of electric vehicle sales out of all 50 states in the U.S. California accounts for about 11% of all U.S. vehicle sales, and many states adopt its more strict vehicle emissions limits.
The transportation sector is responsible for more than half of all of California's carbon pollution, including 80% of smog-forming pollutants and 95% of toxic diesel emissions, the Governor's office said when the executive order was signed.
The state's scientists estimate that the transition to zero-emission vehicles by 2035 would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35%, including an 80% decrease in harmful oxides of nitrogen emissions from vehicles statewide.
In 2019, the EPA also issued rules barring California from requiring the sale of electric vehicles. A court challenge is pending.
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