NACS Files Petition Against California’s Zero-Emission Vehicle Mandate

California says all new passenger and light trucks sold in the state must be EVs or hybrids by 2035.

October 26, 2022

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—NACS, along with other stakeholders, have filed a petition in a federal court in Washington, D.C., challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s waiver that would allow California to implement a zero-emission vehicle mandate.

“We strongly favor more development of competitive markets for electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and other technologies,” said Doug Kantor, NACS general counsel. “But technology mandates will reduce incentives for environmental gains from a range of vehicle fuels and technologies. We should encourage innovation to meet environmental performance goals. That would be far more effective in reducing emissions and delivering the competitive prices, goods and services that American consumers deserve.”

In August, the California Air Resources Board passed a plan that requires all new passenger cars and light trucks sold in the state to be electric vehicles or plug-in electric hybrids by 2035. Currently, 16% of all new car sales in California are zero-emission vehicles.

The plan is a phased approach. By 2026, 35% percent of new cars and trucks sold in the state must be zero-emission, plug-in hybrid or hydrogen-powered vehicles, and the benchmarks rise to 68% in 2030 and 100% by 2035.

The petition filed by NACS and other stakeholders states that the EPA lacks the authority to grant a waiver to California for emission stands aimed at global climate change. It also says that the EPA’s waiver-reinstatement decision also cannot be sustained based on the agency’s novel and cramped view of its reconsideration authority.

“EPA’s analysis of its reconsideration authority is intertwined with its erroneous reading of the statute and thus does not supply an independent basis for its decision. In any event, an agency has inherent authority to reconsider a decision premised on an incorrect reading of a statute, and nothing in the Clean Air Act provides otherwise,” reads the petition. “EPA properly exercised its inherent reconsideration authority when it withdrew California’s waiver in 2019.”

In 2019, the EPA rescinded the waiver that had allowed California to pursue greenhouse gas regulations separate from those imposed by EPA on most of the U.S. This spring, EPA changed course and granted a new waiver to California. A centerpiece of the regulations that California developed which would be reinstated by the new waiver is a mandate that a certain number of new vehicles sold in the state be “zero emission vehicles.” While all types of vehicles create emissions—whether while driving them or during the process of producing the energy necessary to operate them—California defines plug-in electric vehicles, including plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, as well as hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, to be “zero emission.”

The petition also states how the mandate would harm the convenience and fuel retailing industry along with other related industries.

“By design, California’s greenhouse-gas standards and zero-emission-vehicle mandate reduce the demand for liquid fuels and their raw materials by forcing automakers to sell vehicles that use significantly less liquid fuel or no liquid fuel at all,” reads the petition. “Depressing the demand for those fuels injures petitioners and petitioners’ members financially. California itself found that the ‘oil and gas industry, fuel providers and service stations are likely to be’ the industries ‘most adversely affected’ by California’s Advanced Clean Cars program and the resulting ‘substantial reductions in demand for gasoline’ in California.”

Seventeen states filed petitions seeking to block the California waiver. The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, Energy Marketers of America and the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance joined the petition with NACS.

“Our members are accelerating investments in electric vehicle chargers to serve that market, but different states setting technology mandates will not work,” said Kantor. “The track record of policymakers deciding what technologies will be best for future Americans is a poor one.”

The Convenience Matters podcast, “Where Do EVs Make the Most Sense?” examines the findings from a Fuels Institute study looking at life-cycle emissions for EVs and fuel-powered vehicles. NACS also has a topics page on electric vehicles.