EPA Challenges California on Gasoline-Car Ban

The agency has questions amid rolling blackouts and California’s requests for out-of-state electricity.

October 01, 2020

WASHINGTON—The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is questioning California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to ban sales of new gasoline- and diesel-powered passenger cars by 2035, reports the Wall Street Journal.

As NACS Daily reported, Newsom signed the order last week as part of the state’s efforts to promote electric or zero-emission vehicles. Californians still would be allowed to own vehicles with internal combustion engines and resell them. But in a letter to Newsom this week, Andrew Wheeler, EPA administrator, said a statewide shift to electric vehicles would strain California’s already-troubled electric grid.

“California’s record of rolling blackouts—unprecedented in size and scope—coupled with recent requests to neighboring states for power begs the question of how you expect to run an electric car fleet that will come with significant increases in electricity demand, when you can’t even keep the lights on today,” Wheeler wrote in the letter.

Wheeler added that the order likely couldn’t be implemented by the California Air Resources Board without approval from the EPA and noted that last year, the Trump Administration took away California’s power to set its own vehicle tailpipe emissions standards.

The ban is an ambitious step to bolster adoption of electric vehicles and slash greenhouse-gas emissions. California would be the first U.S. state to ban the sale of gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles, but other countries, including France and Germany, have adopted similar goals. The California governor has said transportation is responsible for more than half of California’s carbon emissions and has made climate change central to his policy agenda.

“Of all the simultaneous crises that we face as a state…none is more forceful than the issue of the climate crisis,” Gov. Newsome said. “What we’re advancing here today is a strategy to address that crisis head on, to be as bold as the problem is big.”