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Biden Administration and DOT To Completely Drop California Emissions Lawsuit

Lawsuit over California’s more stringent, non-federal emissions standard had been a continuing legal battle since 2019.

By Evan Symon, April 23, 2021 2:53 am

President Joe Biden and the Department of Transportation announced on Thursday that they would be ending the legal battle with California over the state’s vehicle emissions standards, which are more stringent than federal standards.

The legal battle over California and other states having their own auto emissions standards dates back to 2019. Then-president Donald Trump had, after several years of trying to cajole California to follow federal standards, revoked the rule that year through the EPA, attempting to make uniform emissions standards across all states. California, along with 22 other states and the District of Columbia, immediately sued the federal government in return. When a judge refused the Trump administrations efforts to throw the case out, lines quickly formed over the lawsuit.

Toyota, GM, Fiat Chrysler, and other quickly sided with the federal government over the uniform standards due to  concerns that it could lead to making different cars for different parts of the country. Others, such as Ford, Honda, and Volkswagen, came into private agreements with the state and backed the differing standards model.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg  (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

For most of 2020, the lawsuit was held in limbo, with neither the state nor the EPA budging on the issue, with both sides waiting out until November to see if Trump or Biden would win the 2020 election. Trump vowed to continue fighting for the federal uniform emissions standard, while Biden supported the state exemption to allow them to have different standards.

Following Biden’s victory, car manufacturers quickly abandoned backing the federal position, with all companies eventually joining California’s side by the time of the inauguration in January. For several months, the case over the emissions standards had all but officially ended, with Biden and the DOT waiting until the right time to fully end it.

That day came Thursday, Earth Day, with the DOT saying that the lawsuit over the emissions standards could officially end as soon as Friday, with the EPA due to add back the waiver over allowing states to have their own emissions standards.

“The transportation sector is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases in our economy, which means it can and must be a big part of the climate solution,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a statement on Thursday. “This proposed rule would be an important step towards protecting public health and combating climate change.”

The end of a nearly 2-year long legal battle

The return of state standards, as well as California’s victory over the federal government, was celebrated by many California lawmakers on Thursday.

“Now that this unnecessary lawsuit is over, I look forward to the Biden administration working in concert with California to set new standards that combat climate change, protect public health and save consumers money,” stated Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on Thursday.

In a a following tweet, she added that “The Trump administration should never have challenged California’s legal authority to set our own vehicle emission standards. The Clean Air Act clearly gives us the right to protect California’s air and I want to thank the Biden administration for ending this challenge.”

Auto industry experts noted that, with the exemption, other states will likely follow California’s lead for their own emissions standards.

“California led the pack again,” said Michigan-based auto industry analyst Kevin Pullman to the Globe on Thursday. “The DOT wanted to make an annual 1.5% increase in fuel efficiency each year, but California and other states wanted 5%, to help reduce emissions.

“What we’ll get from this is more hybrid and electric cars. The US is behind China and Europe right now in adoption and production, so having the emissions argument out of the way, as well as higher standards, is going to encourage even more electric and hybrid vehicles to go on the road.

“We expected Biden to do this some year at some point, so now we can move on finally.”

The DOT is expected to completely withdraw the case in the coming days.

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4 thoughts on “Biden Administration and DOT To Completely Drop California Emissions Lawsuit

  1. If logic and science ruled instead of politics, you would think that a uniform national standard would be preferable. No state or country has borders or fences in the air. Volkswagen proved that emissions standards can be bypassed and we are breathing China’s polluted air as the earth turns. Imo, California’s standards are meant to benefit the promotion of electric vehicles that the state wants everyone to drive. I will keep my gas powered cars, although I may buy a hybrid.

  2. Let’s not forget rolling blackouts.
    Let’s not forget less electricity will be produced for the growing population.
    Let’s not ignore that in order to produce electricity, you need to start with coal.
    Let’s not forget about all the beautiful raptors such as eagles killed by wind turbines.
    Let’s not forget Cobalt is needed to power the electric car.
    Lets’s not forget Mr. Buttigieg, the new head of DOT fakes his commute on a bike to “save the planet”. A real Captain Planet, he is!

    While that all gets worked out, I will continue to drive my reliable fossil fueled comfortable, safe car.

    1. Amen to all, Cali Girl!!

      The code words here are “protecting public health and combating climate change.”

      That’s code for insider dealing to push unproven technologies that will enrich those in politics pushing for those technologies ahead of their natural market cycle…

      Why don’t they force China to clean up THEIR act first??? Oh yeah, cuz China is paying them handsomely to cripple the US market, while China expands unchecked….

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