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EPA dings Newsom’s gas-powered car ban: “You can’t even keep the lights on.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order banning the sale of gas-powered cars by 2035 is under fire.

The criticism comes from an unlikely source: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler penned a letter to Newsom on Monday questioning the legality and practicality of the order. 

Wheeler said the California Air Resources Board will likely need to gain approval from the EPA to implement the order, and he noted that the Trump administration removed California’s ability to regulate vehicle emission standards in 2019. 

“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 wrote. 

“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 increase in electricity demand, when you can’t even keep the lights on today.” 

Wheeler doubled-down on California’s recent blackouts and power shortages, which he said have caused a “series of otherwise preventable environmental and public health consequences.” 

The EPA Administrator pointed to a blackout-caused pump station failure, which resulted in 50,000 gallons of raw sewage to be spilled directly into the Oakland Estuary. 

The power grid problems also resulted in the California Independent System Operator – the organization that operates the state’s energy market – to seek an emergency exemption from federal air quality standards in order to maintain power. 

That request was granted, but Wheeler said it resulted in an increase of pollution such as fine particulate matter and nitrogen oxide. 

When Newsom signed the order last week, he touted it as a savior against climate change. 

“This is the most impactful step our state can take to fight climate change,” Newsom said at the time. “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, Wheeler argued that the EPA has modernized regulations of emissions from power plants, factories, aircraft and vehicles while avoiding unnecessary consequences. 

“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,” 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.”

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.