The EPA is expected to reinstate a waiver that allows California to adopt more stringent vehicle tailpipe emissions. The EPA’s decision under the administration of President Joe Biden comes after the Trump administration walked back the California Air Resources Board’s ability to supersede federal emissions standards back in 2019.
The waiver would once again allow California to operate independently of the EPA and take point as the most progressive state when it comes to regulating greenhouse gas 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 U.S population.
According to an EPA representative 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 we expect to issue a decision in the near future.”
For decades California has been the only state permitted to issue emissions standards under the federal Clean Air Act. Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Washington D.C. have all adopted CARB standards in leiu of federal standards.
The 2019 withdrawl 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 moved to begin to the process of regranting the CARB waiver almost immediately after taking office.
In December of last year the EPA announced it would increase the efficiency benchmarks 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 the 2 mpg efficiency increase will prevent 3.1 billion tons of emissions from reaching the atmosphere. In 2020 California’s Govenor, Gavin Newsom, signed an executive order mandating all vehicles sold in the state must be zero-emissions by 2035.