More States Adopt Stricter Vehicle Emission Standards

California smog    Photo: Wiki CC

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer

As the Biden administration is readying a reversal of the Trump policies that loosened rules on auto emissions, many states have started amending their laws to align with the California clean car standards.  Case in point: the Virginia legislature last week passed a law that toughened its emissions standards, while Minnesota and Nevada have drafted policies that have yet to be ratified. These states could follow in the footsteps of thirteen other states, plus Washington D.C. to adopt the rules put in place in California, which under the Clean Air Act had the right to implement stricter tailpipe emissions standards. 

Why this Matters: Last year, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order that would phase out the sale of gas-powered passenger vehicles by 2035 — and New Jersey and Massachusetts have indicated that they want to follow suit. The Trump administration blocked California’s tighter restrictions on emissions — it revoked all states’ abilities to align their emissions standards with those of California.  Now, if enough states enact the California standards, it could put a major dent in the nation’s emissions and could help the U.S. reach its climate goals — the U.S. transportation industry is responsible for 28 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, the largest of any sector.

States Take Action

Trump’s rule — that only the federal government can set emissions standards — has been challenged in court, but the case is now on hold at the Biden administration’s request. The Biden administration stated that it may reverse the Trump rule by regulation, and told the court that it wished a pause in the litigation citing “the prerogative of the executive branch to reconsider the policy decisions of a prior Administration,” indicating that it may reverse the Trump position in the case.  That would be an unusual move, but it is understandable given the Biden Administration’s views on the importance of reducing tailpipe emissions.

In the meantime, Virginia sent a bill to Governor Ralph Northam, that would implement tougher emissions standards starting with 2024 vehicles, and he is expected to sign the measure into law. 

Minnesota held a public hearing about a similar rule last week, while Nevada proposed a regulation that would adopt the standards as well. New Mexico’s Governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, has showed interest in signing on too. 

This could have a major effect on the auto industry, which is already beginning to transition to electric vehicles. Katherine Garcia, deputy director of national policies for the Sierra Club’s Clean Transportation for All campaign, told the Hill: “It’s really sending a signal to the automakers that Americans want clean cars.”

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