House passes GOP bill to block EPA from authorizing California plan to ban new gas-powered vehicles by 2035

September 15, 2023
Ben Marquis

There was an increasingly rare moment of bipartisan agreement in Congress this week as a handful of House Democrats joined with their Republican colleagues to vote in favor of a GOP bill.

The bill that was passed by a vote of 222-190, with the help of eight Democrats, would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from granting waivers to states that seek to limit or completely outlaw gasoline-powered vehicles, according to The Hill.

Though the legislation did not specifically mention California, it nonetheless clearly addressed the fact that the state has sought an EPA waiver to allow it to move forward with a plan to prohibit the sale of any new gas-powered vehicles in the state by 2035.

California's plan to ban new gas-powered vehicles

It was in 2020 that CalMatters reported how Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order to require the state's Air Resources Board to devise a rule to essentially ban the sale -- though not the possession -- of all new gas-powered vehicles in the state within 15 years as a way to force and accelerate the transition to plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles.

Nearly two years later, the board did exactly that, and Reuters reported in May that California filed a request with the EPA for a waiver that would allow it to impose vehicle emissions standards, by way of the ban on gas-powered vehicles, that are stricter than those set by the EPA under the federal Clean Air Act.

Under California's plan, which numerous other states would inevitably follow, no less than 35% of vehicles sold in the state by 2026 must be all-electric, a plug-in hybrid, or powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, with that figure increasing to 68% by 2030 and 100% by 2035.

The Preserving Choice in Vehicle Purchases Act

House Republicans, in response to California's plan and the EPA's consideration of a waiver to allow it, drafted legislation known as H.R. 1435, titled the Preserving Choice in Vehicle Purchases Act, and it was subsequently passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee with the support of Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), who spoke on Tuesday before the House Rules Committee ahead about the bill ahead of the floor vote on Thursday.

"This legislation is about ensuring Americans can continue choosing the vehicles that best suit their lives. It's about making sure people have the option of driving practical, functional, and affordable cars," Rodgers said. "And it's about embracing the legacy of the American auto industry."

"We should be asking ourselves, 'How can America continue to lead the auto sector for the next 100 years?'" she continued. "The answer is not through restrictive government mandates. Yet that is exactly what President Biden’s EPA, California, and other allies are trying to do."

Rodgers went on to say, "These mandates are divorced from reality, they’re unaffordable and impractical for most Americans, and what I’m most concerned about is that they’re handing China the keys to our auto future."

"The decision about what kind of cars we drive should not be dictated through one state or through federal mandates. So this legislation would emphasize that Clean Air Act waivers, like the one requested by California, are for reducing emissions -- not eliminating engine types," she added. "It prevents the EPA from granting California a waiver to 'directly or indirectly' limit the sale or use of new cars with internal combustion engines. It also prevents California, complicit with the EPA, from dictating the transportation policies for the entire country."

Biden White House opposes GOP bill

President Joe Biden's White House has not yet addressed the passage of H.R. 1435 in the House but it did issue a policy statement on Tuesday to register its opposition to the Republican-led legislation.

"The Administration strongly opposes passage of H.R. 1435, which would amend the Clean Air Act (CAA) to preclude EPA from issuing federal preemption waivers for California pollution standards that directly or indirectly limit the sale or use of new motor vehicles with internal combustion engines," the statement said.

"Congress acted to preserve California’s authority to regulate emissions from vehicles over 50 years ago and repeatedly ratified and strengthened that authority in subsequent enactments. Congress protected the state’s authority to address its unique and ongoing air quality challenges and to give other states the option to adopt the innovative clean car and truck technologies California pioneered," the White House added. "H.R. 1435 would restrict the ability of California and its citizens to address its severe air pollution challenges."

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