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Air Quality

California’s Power to Regulate Tailpipe Emissions Will Be Restored

2:05 PM PST on February 16, 2022

Advocates hope that California will lead the U.S. to have more of these types of trucks on the road soon. Image: Spielvogel/Wikicommons

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is widely expected to restore California's authority to regulate tailpipe emission standards, which the Trump Administration took away in 2019. Despite the move to limit California's power, the state had been moving ahead anyway under Governor Gavin Newsom to limit emissions.

“We welcome the Biden Administration’s expected move to recognize our authority to continue setting the pace with bold policies, investments, and partnerships to clean the air and accelerate the global zero-emission vehicle transition,” Newsom said in a statement.

“The restoration of our state’s decades-long Clean Air Act waiver will be a major victory for the environment, our economy, and the health of Americans across the country in states that have chosen to adopt our pioneering standards.”

The move would allow California to set more stringent emission standards for new vehicles than those set by the federal government. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia follow California's standards, creating de-facto standards for most new vehicles sold anywhere in America.

This is welcome news for advocates of clean(er) cars and zero-emission vehicles. California has vowed to phase out internal-combustion engines in the state in the coming decades, and the reinstated authority can help achieve this goal. For example, the California Air Resources Board is developing standards for heavy-duty diesel truck fleets to transition to zero-emission and is working on the next phase of the Advanced Clean Cars Program (ACCP). ACCP sets vehicle emissions standards and sales requirements for electric vehicles.

Tailpipe emissions are still the largest source of air pollution in California. Clean air advocates are hopeful that California, a state that has generally been more progressive than America on issues related to climate change than the rest of the United States, can be the lead in the transition away from fossil-fuel powered vehicles.

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