Senate Dems Propose Major Clean Cars Push As Court Rejects Challenge to Clean Car Rollback


Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, along with Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and Sen. Jeff Merkley  of Oregon, on Friday announced a $450 billion/10 year “Clean Cars For America Climate Proposal”  to accelerate the transition to net-zero carbon emissions by mid-century by making clean cars and charging infrastructure accessible and affordable to all Americans.  Meanwhile, an appeals court in Washington, D.C. rejected on procedural grounds a challenge to the Trump Administration’s announced decision that it intends to replace the Obama clean car rule because the case is not ripe until the new rule is put in place.

Why This Matters:  It is impressive that the Senate Democrats’ proposal on electric vehicles unites auto workers, environmental groups and the auto companies all in support of speeding the development and adoption of cleaner cars.  Senator Schumer argued in an op/ed in the New York Times that “[w]e need to act urgently and ambitiously,” and  “spur a transformation in American manufacturing” so that “by 2040 all vehicles on the road should be clean.”   The three-judge panel (all appointed by Democrats) dismissed the challenge to the clean car rollback on procedural grounds, which means that the legal fate of the rule remains in limbo, leaving the industry and its workers, not to mention everyone who suffers as a result of auto pollution up in the air.

How The Democrats’ Clean Car Proposal Would Work

It would do three things:

  • Make clean vehicles affordable by giving consumers a substantial cash voucher to trade-in their gas-powered cars and buy a U.S.-assembled and affordable plug-in electric, plug-in hybrid, or hydrogen fuel cell car. ($392 billion)
  • Make charging infrastructure accessible through a new grant program to states and localities to ensure all Americans have access to charging infrastructure. ($45 billion)
  • Reassert U.S. leadership in clean car manufacturing with robust incentives for manufacturers to build new factories or re-tool existing factories in the United States to assemble zero-emission vehicles or manufacture charging equipment. ($17 billion)

The Court Decision 

The court case is something of a setback for the states (California, Maryland, and Massachusets among others) and environmental groups challenging the initial decision by the Trump administration to roll back the Obama Administration’s clean car rule.  The court threw out the case because the EPA decision is “not a judicially reviewable final action” by the government because the rollback “neither determines rights or obligations or imposes any legal consequences” — essentially saying that they can review the new clean car standard but not the decision to do away with the old one.  The Judges cautioned that “if EPA ultimately changes the 2012 standards, it will need to provide a ‘reasoned explanation’ for why it is ‘disregarding facts and circumstances that underlay or were engendered by the’ 2022–2025 model year standards when they were set in 2012 and the additional record developed during the original mid-term evaluation process.”

To Go Deeper:  Read Senator Schumer’s op/ed here, and the D.C. Circuit decision here.

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