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California 2035 zero-emission vehicle mandate is illegal, think tank says

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(The Center Square) – California’s requirement that vehicles sold in the state be zero-emission by 2035 is illegal, according to the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The state is seeking a waiver from the EPA to implement this rule, as it must for each emissions standard it wishes to adopt that is more strict than federal requirements. California waivers are typically approved — when EPA notably denied a California waiver in 2008 during the George W. Bush administration, the Obama administration’s EPA granted the waiver the following year.

Under an executive order signed by California governor Gavin Newsom, all passenger cars and trucks, as well as drayage trucks — typically semi-trucks — that transport goods between ports and their destinations sold in California would need to be 100% zero-emission by 2035. The same order requires heavy-duty vehicles to be 100% zero-emission by 2045, where feasible. Because this ban on gasoline, natural gas, and diesel-powered vehicles is an executive order, Newsom or a future governor could reverse this order at any time.

TPPF, which produced research suggesting electric vehicle subsidies add up to $48,698 per EV, says the EPA lacks the authority to grant the California Air Resources Board the ability to enforce this rule and stated CARB had failed to consider the emissions produced full lifecycle of zero-emission vehicles, such as from battery production, and not just tailpipe emissions.

TPFF cited studies finding renewable diesel and hydrogen would be far more effective at reducing emissions for heavy-duty vehicles — renewable diesel could reduce emissions to 32.7% of that emitted standard diesel truck engine, while solar-powered hydrogen could reduce emissions to 8.8% of baseline diesel CO2 emissions.

TPFF claims that under the California Environmental Quality Act, “CARB has a legal requirement to consider alternatives to its regulatory proposals,” and both ”failed to address the environmental consequences of ZEVs,” and “did not adequately perform analysis of alternatives to [Advanced Clean Cars II] regulations.” TPFF further claims the EPA has no authority “absent “clear congressional authorization” to grant California a waiver to “force mobile source electrification.”

Due to significant transportation-driven smog, especially in the Los Angeles area, California was allowed to seek EPA waivers due to the unique air quality issues facing the state. In 2008, California sought to expand its air quality controls to greenhouse gas emissions, resulting in the aforementioned waiver denial by the Bush II administration and later approval by the Obama administration. The Trump EPA revoked California’s waiver to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, a move that remained held up in courts and was overturned by the Biden EPA in 2021.

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