Gas War: Republican States Sue EPA Over Californian Standards

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
gas war republican states sue epa over californian standards

Last week, a group of Republican attorneys general decided to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its decision to reinstate the waiver allowing California to set its own limitations on exhaust gasses and zero-emission vehicle mandates that would exceed federal standards.

The agency approved the waiver after it had been eliminated as part of the Trump administration’s fuel rollback on the grounds that it would create a schism within the industry by forcing automakers to produce vehicles that catered to the Californian market at the expense of products that might be appreciated in other parts of the country. However, Joe Biden’s EPA sees things differently and has aligned itself with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in giving the state more leeway to govern itself in regard to emissions policing.

In fact, Biden issued an executive order in January 2021 that directed the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the EPA to reconsider the Trump administration’s 2019 decision to revoke California’s ability to self-regulate.

The coalition of AGs is said to be headed by Ohio’s Dave Yost and is asserting in the courts that Clean Air Act waiver violates the Constitution’s equal sovereignty doctrine. Yost was joined by officials from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia who have joined the federal lawsuit.

Though this is all fair play considering that the emissions fracas has become a never-ending saga of partisan bickering, large states (usually California) throwing their weight around, and constant lawsuits funded by the American taxpayer. When the Trump administration was attempting to negotiate the revised fuel economy standards, the relevant hearings showed officials and legislators throwing tantrums and occasionally refusing to sit near members of the opposition. While some compromises were made, continuing to allow California to set its own rules was not among them. Trump’s EPA even went so far as to cite the Golden State as having the worst air quality in the union, noting an inability to “carry out its most basic tasks under the Clean Air Act.”

Meanwhile, California was encouraging other Democratic-controlled states and a subset of multinational automakers to promise adherence to its emissions laws — rather than the federally issued standards. Several of those states later joined forces to sue the Trump administration in 2020 under the claim that the whole fueling rollback was illegal and based on faulty information. Though it ultimately didn’t matter, since the Biden administration immediately committed itself to dissolve any changes made under the previous White House. This included reinstating California’s waiver, originally issued under the Obama administration in 2013, and reforming the EPA and DOT leadership.

The shoe is now on the other foot and Republicans are attempting to sue the EPA on the grounds that California has been allotted special treatment. IHS Markit reported that the lawsuit was filed on May 13th in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The AGs are claiming that the waiver effectively violates the Constitution, which West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said creates a federalist framework in which all states are equal and none is more equal than others.

“The Trump administration understood that, and prohibited California from setting its own oppressive standards,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt stated. “The Biden administration has since repealed the Trump order and given California the go-ahead to set ‘green’ manufacturing standards, which in reality, crush the average American who is already facing astronomical prices at the pump because of the Biden administration’s failed policies.”

This issue is definitely larger than just cars. Republicans have sued the EPA on a couple of items relating to how it wants to regulate emissions from manufacturing and energy production. The Supreme Court is even looking into where the agency’s authority should stop in terms of coal-fired power plants. But the general trend has been for emissions regulations to become increasingly stringent, regardless of who is occupying the White House or what letter appends the name of your governor. Leadership from seventeen states have opted to run with California’s plan — including bans of internal combustion vehicles by 2035 — and the rest are subject to enhanced tailpipe regulations under Biden’s EPA.

This one doesn’t have an easy answer. Automakers are largely split on the issue and there is a clear conflict between what constitutes states’ rights and allowing one region’s influence to supersede the rest. Frankly, California’s overbearing environmental policies don’t seem to have been all that realistic or successful. It may be foolhardy to extend them to the rest of the nation, undoubtedly altering the kind of vehicles that will be produced. But one should probably have serious reservations about limiting any local body’s ability to govern itself. It’s just a shame that this unproductive circus, led by uncompromising and litigious partisans, is likely to determine the fate of the industry and perhaps the next vehicle you’ll be buying.

[Image: Siripatv/Shutterstock]

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  • Probert Probert on May 18, 2022

    Oh yes - the entire country should be held in the thrall of Wyoming and Idaho. You got 2 senators each, purchased for about 50large at k-mart. People actually have to listen to your nutbaggery. Say thank you and shut up.

    • See 1 previous
    • Bullnuke Bullnuke on May 20, 2022

      Ahh, the joys of a Constitutional Republic where folks with different values are allowed to espouse "nutbaggery" through their elected representatives that causes angst and juvenile name calling from folks to support their own opposing views.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on May 18, 2022

    @Oberkanone--That definitely is a possibility.

  • SPPPP Aggression is pretty much the reason that racing exists, so I am going to call this an unsolvable problem. It's a contrived scenario in which you take risks to get rewards. You may be able to improve it ... but never eliminate it.
  • MaintenanceCosts This is now our fourth 20th Anniversary GTI, and the third of those four that had major structural modifications for purely aesthetic reasons. I didn't picture Tim as the type to want to join the STANCE YO crowd, but here we are?
  • JMII This is why I don't watch NASCAR, it just a crash fest. Normally due the nature of open-wheel cars you don't see such risky behavior during Indy car events. You can't trade paint and bump draft with an Indy car. I thought it was a sad ending for a 500. While everyone wants a green flag finish at some point (3 laps? 5 laps?) red flagging it is just tempting people too much like a reset button in a game.The overall problem is the 500 is not a "normal" race. Many one-off competitors enter it and for almost every driver they are willing to throw away the entire season championship just to win the "500". It sure pays way more then winning the championship. This would be like making a regular season NFL game worth more then the Super Bowl. This encourages risky behavior.I am not sure what the fix is, but Indy's restart procedures have been a mess for years. If I was in charge the rule would be pit speed limiter until the green flag drops at a certain place on the track - like NASCARs restart "zone". Currently the leader can pace the field however they wish and accelerate whenever they choose. This leads to multiple false and jumped starts with no penalty for the behavior. Officals rarely wave off such restarts, but that did happened once on Sunday so they tried to make driver behave. The situation almost didn't happen as there were two strategies in the end with some conserving fuel and running old tires, driving slower with others racing ahead. However the last caution put everyone on even terms so nobody had advantage. It always gets crazy in the last few laps but bunching up the field with a yellow or red flag is just asking for trouble.
  • Tim Healey Lol it's simply that VWVortex is fertile ground for interesting used cars!
  • Jalop1991 I say, install gun racks.Let the games begin!