Statement: Biden moves toward allowing states to return to setting stricter vehicle emission standards

Media Contacts
Emily Rusch

Vice President and Senior Director of State Offices, The Public Interest Network

EPA seeks public input in first step toward restoring California’s clean cars waiver

Environment America

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration announced Monday it would begin to undo the Trump administration’s attempt to block states such as California from setting stronger tailpipe emissions standards than the federal government. Specifically, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted a notice seeking public input for the purposes of rescinding the Trump’s administration’s action. This is the first step toward reaffirming California’s clean cars waiver under the Clean Air Act and allowing other states to adopt California’s more stringent greenhouse gas emissions standards and zero emissions vehicle mandates. 

Vehicle tailpipes are a major source of health-harming air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. After seven years of decline, air pollution started rising in 2016. By 2018, 108 million Americans lived in areas that experienced more than 100 days of degraded air quality.

U.S. PIRG and Environment America had called on Biden to strengthen federal fuel economy and vehicle emission standards, and restore state authority, in the “First Things to Fix” report, which outlined 20 environmental protections the president should enact when beginning his time in office.

Experts from Environment America, U.S. PIRG, Environment California and CALPIRG issued the following statements:

“States have always been the incubators for climate policy, leading the way to better address the climate crisis,” said Environment America Destination: Zero Carbon Campaign Director Morgan Folger. “By blocking states from taking action on tailpipe emissions, the Trump administration acted recklessly in a way that threatened public health. Thank you President Biden for taking this first step. Now it’s time to reaffirm that states can and should lead the way for clean air and cleaner cars.” 

“Transportation pollution is the nation’s largest source of global warming emissions and puts the health of all Americans at risk,” said Matt Casale, U.S. PIRG Environment Campaigns director. “Letting states set vehicle emission standards that support their clean air and climate goals is not only the right thing to do, it will help bolster the market for cleaner cars, benefiting all Americans.”

“With raging wildfires, dirty air and drought threatening our environment, California suffers from some of the most severe climate and pollution impacts we’ve seen to date,” said Laura Deehan, state director at Environment California. “Thank you President Biden for making this move toward restoring California’s ability to lead the way for clean air and cleaner cars.”

“Today, Californians can breathe easier because the Biden administration is on its way to reaffirming our state’s right to create and enforce our own clean cars standards — which in various forms have helped make our air cleaner and healthier for 55 years,” said Emily Rusch, CALPIRG executive director. “Reversing the Trump administration’s policies that unleashed pollution and harmed public health is crucial to a better future for California and all the states emulating our landmark vehicular pollution and air quality laws.”