The restoration comes after former President Donald Trump withdrew California’s ability to set its own tailpipe emissions standards in 2019, part of a broader effort to eviscerate the nation’s environmental policies.
California first received a waiver under the Clean Air Act to create the tougher standards as a way to address its smog problems. The state has also been a leader in electric vehicle adoption.
Trump’s decision wasn’t supported by the auto industry. In fact, five major car manufacturers signed a deal with California in 2020 to voluntarily follow the state’s emissions standards even though they weren’t required to by law.
On Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency recognized California’s “longstanding” efforts to be a leader in addressing pollution from vehicles, and said the agency’s “partnership with states to confront the climate crisis has never been more important.”
“With today’s action, we reinstate an approach that for years has helped advance clean technologies and cut air pollution for people not just in California, but for the U.S. as a whole,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.
The impact of this change could be monumental.
According to The New York Times, California is the most populous state and the world’s fifth-largest economy. California lawmakers’ actions reverberate throughout the auto industry and have been adopted by many other states.
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said Wednesday the state would only continue its transition towards zero-emission vehicles. As part of an effort to phase out the sale of gasoline-powered cars by 2035, the state plans to increase electric vehicle requirements by 2030.
“The restoration of our state’s Clean Air Act waiver is a major victory for the environment, our economy, and the health of families across the country that comes at a pivotal moment underscoring the need to end our reliance on fossil fuels,” Newsom said in a statement. “California looks forward to partnering with the Biden Administration to make a zero-emission future a reality for all Americans.”
President Joe Biden has also worked to hasten the adoption of electric vehicles. He signed an executive order last year to see the U.S. have half of all cars sold be electric, fuel cell or plug-in hybrids by 2030.
Fossil fuels from transportation are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the nation, clocking in at 29% of America’s total.