The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will move to rescind California’s authority to set its own emission standards for automobiles, including its mandate for electric vehicles, Bloomberg reports.
The proposed rule, expected later this week, will seek to freeze federal vehicle efficiency standards at 35 miles per gallon, rather than the 50 mpg target for 2025 finalized by the Obama administration, as well as revoke California’s waiver to issue its own auto pollution rules under the Clean Air Act.
The rule will likely inspire a lengthy court battle. Shortly after the EPA announced in March that it would reconsider the Obama-era auto rules, California and 17 other states sued the agency, followed by a group of electric utilities and automaker Tesla. Major utility trade groups also wrote to EPA in May asking it to finalize rules that "incorporate policies from California."
Electric vehicles could be a major new source of power demand for electric utilities, many of which have seen their load plateau or drop since the 2008 recession.
The Trump administration’s proposed rollback of auto emission standards could slow the growth of EVs, particularly in their biggest market — California.
The state accounts for about half the U.S. EV market and has a mandate to put 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025. If the state reaches Gov. Jerry Brown’s more ambitious goal of 5 million ZEVs by 2030, it could add up to 1 GW of power demand to the grid.
California's EV mandate is based on a legal waiver the state has under the Clean Air Act to set its own emissions standards for vehicles, granted when the law was drafted in 1970. That waiver would be rescinded under the Trump administration’s new plan, according to three unnamed sources who spoke to Bloomberg.
The move could be met with opposition from utilities, which have stepped up their public support for electric vehicles in the past year. In May, a group of twelve utilities — including seven Exelon subsidiaries — joined with Tesla to ask the D.C. Circuit Court to review the EPA’s decision to review fuel standards.
Later that month, the nation’s three big utility trade groups — the Edison Electric Institute, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the American Public Power Association — all wrote to the EPA asking it to finalize tougher fuel standards that include electric vehicles as a compliance option.
"[A]vanced technologies, such as EVs, can provide key flexibilities to automakers in a way that maintains a single national program for fuel economy and GHG standards," they wrote.
Utilities have also extended their lobbying beyond letters and lawsuits. In April, EEI and Duke Energy helped defeat an anti-EV resolution at a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative state policymaking group, with the trade group saying utilities play "an important role in developing charging infrastructure and expanding access to electric transportation."