Mayors React to Proposed Federal Freeze on Auto Emission, EV Standards

Last Thursday, Aug. 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed a freeze on auto emission standards at 2020 levels and proposed to revoke California's authority to set its own rules for vehicle efficiency, including electric vehicles (EVs).

The regulatory notice issued by the two agencies, called the "Safer and Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicle Rule" (SAFER), suggests that, by loosening emission standards, vehicle prices will remain lower, thus encouraging more consumers to replace aging, dangerous vehicles with newer, safer models.

However, a coalition called Climate Mayors has condemned the proposal, which it said would "hinder U.S. efforts to curb auto emissions and the resulting air pollution."

"We cannot sacrifice the future of our plant on the altar of short-sighted and dangerous policies that serve narrow interests," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in an August 2 press release. "Automakers, consumers and environmentalists agree that this rollback on progress helps no one and never should have seen the light of day. The proposal directly threatens to stall the progress we have made in Los Angeles to take toxic fumes out of our air."

More than any other state in the nation, California has aggressively promoted EVs. For example, Los Angeles' utility, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, offers rebates to residential and commercial customers to offset the purchases of qualifying EV chargers. This is in addition to the state's EV rebate. It also has a mandate to put 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025, and Gov. Jerry Brown previously announced a goal of 5 million zero-emission vehicles by 2030.

"While the Trump EPA is asleep at the wheel, Chicago will continue to increase the size of our electric vehicle fleet and modernize mass transit, because it's the right thing to do for our city and the responsible thing to do for future generations," said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Chicago also has several programs in place to promote EVs and EV charging stations. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), for example, administers funds for various projects under the Drive Electric Chicago effort. Last year, CMAP awarded Chicago a $15.5 million federal grant for EV buses and EV charging stations.

The proposed federal freeze is widely accepted to face opposition within states, including legal action. This rebuke by Climate Mayors is the first in broad resistance that experts expect to be prolonged.

Climate Mayors, founded in 2014, is a bipartisan network of 407 U.S. mayors representing 70 million Americans in 47 states who are committed to adopting and upholding the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

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