Padilla, Feinstein Push White House To Restore California’s Authority To Set Clean Car Standards, Implement Strong Nationwide Standards

Senators urge strong national clean car standards using California’s framework agreements as the baseline to ensure clean air for all

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) pushed the White House to reinstate California’s authority to set greenhouse gas and zero-emission vehicle standards, while also urging the administration to restore national pollution standards that actually protect public health and set fuel economy standards at the maximum level possible. In the letter, the Senators also urged the White House to follow California’s lead and set a date by which all new cars and passenger trucks sold be zero-emission vehicles. California is at the forefront of the fight against climate change, leading the way with bold, innovative solutions that reduce air pollution, protect communities, and reverse environmental injustice.

In a letter to President Biden, the senators write, “We write to urge you to maintain states’ authority to set vehicle emissions standards necessary to protect the health and welfare of their people… Importantly, California and other states need a strong federal partner. We support aggressive national standards for greenhouse gas emissions, clean transportation technology, and sensible fuel economy for passenger vehicles. We urge your administration to restore pollution standards that actually protect public health and welfare, set fuel economy standards at the maximum level feasible, and advance national standards for zero-emission vehicles and equipment to ensure the United States remains a leader in clean technology, engineering, and manufacturing. We believe the national baseline should, at an absolute minimum, be built around the technical lead set by companies that voluntarily advanced their agreements with California. We also urge you to follow California’s lead and set a date by which all new cars and passenger trucks sold be zero-emission vehicles.”

Transportation currently accounts for roughly 50 percent of California’s greenhouse gas pollution and is the leading source of pollution nationwide. Many California communities, especially in Los Angeles and the Central Valley, are faced with some of the most toxic, dirty air pollution in the country, which is why it is imperative that California be able to set vehicle emissions standards necessary to protect public health and welfare and address the threats of climate change. In order to reach a 100 percent clean energy economy by midcentury, the United States needs to aggressively decarbonize the transportation sector to ensure that everyone has clean air to breathe, not just in California but around the country.

Padilla is a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which has jurisdiction over the Clean Air Act and air pollution.  

Text of the letter here and below.

Dear President Biden:

Thank you for your early commitment to restoring clean car standards while reviewing the previous administration’s illegal attempt to revoke California’s authority to set greenhouse gas and zero-emission vehicle standards. We write to urge you to maintain states’ authority to set vehicle emissions standards necessary to protect the health and welfare of their people, while also setting strong nationwide standards for greenhouse gas emissions, fuel economy, and zero-emission vehicles. 

We look forward to the coming proposals from the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to reconsider federal actions by the previous administration that removed the ability of states to protect public health and welfare and that reversed air pollution and fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles that would impose net costs, rather than net benefits, on the nation.

The Clean Air Act is a model of state and federal cooperation. It provides a minimum level of protection for national public health but defers to states to determine the best ways to keep the air clean. Importantly, the Act balances states’ rights with the interests of a national manufacturing base by preserving the right of California, and other states that want to follow California, to set engine emission standards necessary to ensure everyone has clean air to breathe. That authority includes setting requirements for greenhouse gas emission standards and for zero- emission vehicles to address the threats of catastrophic climate change and harm to public health caused by pollution from engines and their related equipment and systems.

Importantly, California and other states need a strong federal partner. We support aggressive national standards for greenhouse gas emissions, clean transportation technology, and sensible fuel economy for passenger vehicles. We urge your administration to restore pollution standards that actually protect public health and welfare, set fuel economy standards at the maximum level feasible, and advance national standards for zero-emission vehicles and equipment to ensure the United States remains a leader in clean technology, engineering, and manufacturing. We believe the national baseline should, at an absolute minimum, be built around the technical lead set by companies that voluntarily advanced their agreements with California. We also urge you to follow California’s lead and set a date by which all new cars and passenger trucks sold be zero-emission vehicles.

The automobile industry has shown it has the ingenuity and resources to reimagine our transportation systems in consumer-friendly ways. We urge your administration to take advantage of this effort and make real progress in coordination with states, like California, that share your goals to aggressively fight climate change by eliminating harmful pollution from the transportation sector.

We appreciate your attention to this important matter, and please let us know if we can be of assistance.

Sincerely,

Alex Padilla United States Senator

Dianne Feinstein United States Senator

cc: The Honorable Gina McCarthy, National Climate Advisor
The Honorable Michael Regan, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency
Honorable Pete Buttigieg, Secretary, Department of Transportation 

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