Environmental groups press California on electric car rules

A Jaguar I-Pace electric vehicle drives past some of the Waymo fleet being recharged at Waymo's operations center in the Bayview district of San Francisco, California, U.S. October 19, 2021. REUTERS/Peter DaSilva

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than 80 environmental groups and other organizations on Monday urged California Governor Gavin Newsom to impose tougher rules promoting electric vehicles even as the state is moving faster than President Joe Biden's administration.

"Californians being punished by high gas prices and climate disasters deserve the fastest all-electric future Gov. Newsom can deliver," said Scott Hochberg of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, one of the groups signing the letter.

The groups want Newsom and California air regulators to back requiring more electric vehicles faster than the current plans and to set more stringent annual emissions reductions for gasoline-powered vehicles. They called for 7% annual increases in emissions reductions for gasoline vehicles compared with 5% on average under standards adopted under President Barack Obama.

Hochberg said Newsom "needs to prove the state’s climate leadership with a much faster electrification timeline.”

Newsom is set to deliver his State of the State address on Tuesday. In 2020, Newsom said the state planned to phaseout the sale of new light duty internal combustion vehicles by 2035.

California accounts for about 11% of all U.S. vehicle sales, the biggest individual state market, and many states adopt its green vehicle mandates.

California aims to reach 61% zero emission electric vehicle (EV) sales by 2030, the groups noted. President Joe Biden has set a goal of 50% of new vehicle sales being electric or plug-in electric, but has not endorsed a date to phaseout gasoline-vehicle sales.

The letter https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/climate_law_institute/transportation_and_global_warming/fuel_economy_standards/pdfs/Clean-Cars-Letter-to-Gov-Newsom-March-2022.pdf, also signed by Greenpeace USA, the California Democratic Party Environmental Caucus and Friends of the Earth, want Newsom to consider requiring 80% or more zero emission vehicles by 2030.

Newsom's office did not immediately comment.

In April, the EPA said it was moving to restore legal authority to California to set tough vehicle emission rules and zero-emission vehicle mandates. In 2013, the EPA granted California a waiver to set vehicle rules. Under former President Donald Trump, it revoked the waiver in 2019.

EPA spokesman Nick Conger said Monday the agency is "working to finalize a decision on the California waiver and expects to issue a decision in the near future."

Some automakers have raised concerns if the EPA makes the waiver retroactive and the impact it could have on emissions requirements.

The EPA in December finalized new vehicle emissions rules restoring targets undone by Trump and require a 28.3% reduction in vehicle emissions through 2026.

Biden's push in Congress to boost EV tax credits to up to $12,500 per vehicle and reinstate them for General Motors and Tesla remains stalled along with other provisions to boost EVs.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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