EPA Warns CA Governor: Your Ban on Gasoline is Ridiculous (And Maybe Illegal)


Last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new executive order that would ban gasoline-powered vehicles starting in the year 2035. The order, which will go into effect long after Newsom has undoubtedly moved on to running for president, is intended to make California the nationwide leader in fighting climate change.

“This is the most impactful step our state can take to fight climate change,” Newsom said on September 23. “For too many decades, we have allowed cars to pollute the air that our children and families breathe. Californians shouldn’t have to worry if our cars are giving our kids asthma. Our cars shouldn’t make wildfires worse – and create more days filled with smoky air. Cars shouldn’t melt glaciers or raise sea levels threatening our cherished beaches and coastlines.”

However, Newsom ran into pushback even from lawmakers within his own party, who accused him of playing for headlines at the expense of California residents who are in no position to upgrade to electric vehicles – now or anytime soon.

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“The EV’s pictured in today’s signing of the EO cost more than $50k each. How will my constituents afford an EV? They can’t. They currently drive 11-year-old vehicles. This doesn’t even take into account the strain an all electric vehicle fleet will have on our state electric grid,” tweeted Democratic Assemblymember Jim Cooper.

Newsom also garnered attention from the Environmental Protection Agency. In a letter to the governor this week, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler warned Newsom that his order was not only absurd, it was quite possibly against the law.

“Your recent Executive Order (EO) establishing a goal that 100 percent of new vehicle sales be zero emission by 2035 raises serious questions regarding its legality and practicality,” Wheeler began. “While the EO seems mostly aspirational and on its own would accomplish very little, any attempt by the California Air Resources Board to implement sections of it may require California to request a waiver to U.S. EPA.

“Beyond the significant questions of legality and the fact that consumer demand for the type of vehicle you would mandate has never met the aspirations of California’s political leadership, your state is already struggling to maintain reliable electricity for today’s demands,” Wheeler continued. “California’s record of rolling blackouts – unprecedented in size and scope – coupled with recent requests to neighboring states for power begs the question of how you expect to run an electric car fleet that will come with significant increases in electricity demand, when you can’t even keep the lights on today.”

In other words: Hey man, you guys can’t even keep the lights on as it stands today…how do you intend to outfit your entire state with electric cars?

“By setting realistic goals and maintaining a comprehensive awareness of impacts to the economy, we have achieved tangible environmental progress while improving the lives and livelihoods of our citizenry. I urge you to step away from commitments to singular technologies,” Wheeler said. “While it is tempting for federal or state agencies to regulate with a particular technology in mind, it is far more productive to provide innovators the freedom to develop the technologies of tomorrow.”

The truth is, Wheeler was being kind to call Newsom’s executive order “aspirational.” This was little more than an obvious, “hey, look what I did” thing he can trot out when he’s ready to make his run for the White House. To which his opponent can easily point and say, “Uh, yeah, it accomplished absolutely nothing.”

But hey, great work!

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