Can’t Keep the Lights On

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, sent a letter to Democrat California Gov. Gavin Newsom warning about the legal implications of his recent Executive Order mandating that new vehicle sales starting in 2035 must be electric vehicles and chided him for the failing electricity infrastructure taking place in the state today.

The letter said:

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. As you are aware, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2019 withdrew California’s waiver of Clean Air Act preemption for the State’s greenhouse gas standards for light duty vehicle and its zero-emissions vehicle program.

“While the EO seems to be mostly aspirational and on its own would accomplish very little, any attempt by the California Air Resources Board to implement section of it may require California to request a waiver to U.S. EPA,” the letter said.

Wheeler pointed out that if Newsom’s hoped-for scenario was in place today, there would be an even greater threat to the environment and public health than currently exists in the state, as heat and wildfires have resulted in forced rolling blackouts up and down the state. Wheeler wrote:

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

Wheeler said the EPA shares the goal of a cleaner environment.

“We have modernized regulations that reduce all manner of emissions from power plants, factories, aircraft, and vehicles while avoiding unnecessary consequences,” the letter said. “This is why we as a nation lead the world in clean air and clean water progress, as well as overall greenhouse gas emissions reductions.”

Wheeler than made a pitch for free market capitalism over the government picking energy winners and losers.

“By setting realistic goals and maintaining a comprehensive awareness of impacts to the economy of our citizenry,” Wheeler wrote. “I urge you to step away from commitments to singular technologies.”

“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,” Wheeler wrote.

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