Gas War: Republican States Sue EPA Over Californian Standards

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
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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]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

Consumer advocate tracking industry trends, regulation, and the bitter-sweet nature of modern automotive tech. Research focused and gut driven.

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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.

  • 28-Cars-Later "But Assemblyman Phil Ting, the San Franciscan Democrat who wrote the electric school bus legislation, says this is all about the health and wellbeing of Golden State residents. In addition to the normal air pollution stemming from exhaust gasses, he believes children are being exposed to additional carcinogens by just being on a diesel bus."Phil is into real estate, he doesn't know jack sh!t about science or medicine and if media were real it would politely remind him his opinions are not qualified... if it were real. Another question if media were real is why is a very experienced real estate advisor and former tax assessor writing legislation on school busses? If you read the rest of his bio after 2014, his expertise seems to be applied but he gets into more and more things he's not qualified to speak to or legislate on - this isn't to say he isn't capable of doing more but just two years ago Communism™ kept reminding me Dr. Fauxi knew more about medicine than I did and I should die or something. So Uncle Phil just gets a pass with his unqualified opinions?Ting began his career as a real estate  financial adviser at  Arthur Andersen and  CBRE. He also previously served as the executive director of the  Asian Law Caucus, as the president of the Bay Area Assessors Association, and on the board of  Equality California. [url=][1][/url][h3][/h3]In 2005, Ting was appointed San Francisco Assessor-Recorder in 2005 by Mayor  Gavin Newsom, becoming San Francisco’s highest-ranking  Chinese-American official at the time. He was then elected to the post in November 2005, garnering 58 percent of the vote.Ting was re-elected Assessor-Recorder in 2006 and 2010During his first term in the Assembly, Ting authored a law that helped set into motion the transformation of Piers 30-32 into what would become  Chase Center the home of the  Golden State Warriors
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