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As gas prices spike, EPA restores Clean Air Act waiver for states to help consumers save money, cut pollution

  • According to AAA the national average price for gas hit $4.17 per gallon, a new record, forcing U.S. consumers to spend the most they ever have fueling their cars and trucks.
  • Many of the lowest-income U.S. households spend nearly one-fifth of their income on gasoline – three times more than the average U.S. household.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took action to restore the Clean Air Act waiver that allows states to set more stringent vehicle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards than the federal government. The waiver also affirms state authority to implement clean vehicle programs that make it easier for consumers to find electric vehicle options in their local communities. The restoration follows actions taken by the previous administration, which revoked the EPA state waiver in 2019.

“Consumers across the country want and deserve better access to clean cars,” said Dr. Quinta Warren, associate director of sustainability policy at Consumer Reports. “Restoring this waiver gives states the ability to once again reduce polluting emissions, while saving consumers money on cars and trucks that go further on a gallon of gas, or no gas at all.”

Dr. Warren added: “Restoring state authority to adopt stronger GHG emissions standards is aligned with the Biden administration’s commitment of transitioning the country to cleaner cars, as well as expanding the charging infrastructure to support them. It is also critically important that states have this authority to put strong standards in place for times when the federal government fails to act, or rolls back standards as we saw with the previous administration.”

In 2013, EPA granted California a waiver of Clean Air Act preemption to enforce its GHG standards and zero emission vehicle mandate included in the state’s Advanced Clean Cars program for light-duty cars and trucks. California is the only state that may receive a waiver of Clean Air Act preemption of emission standards for new vehicles, although other states may adopt California’s standards. The 16 states and the District of Columbia that have already moved to adopt California’s standards represent more than 120 million people and almost 40 percent of the country’s car market.

CR says in order to build a more equitable marketplace where more communities have several options for cleaner vehicles at affordable prices, states must have the ability to adopt clean car programs that deliver these vehicles. With more choices at dealerships, consumers can keep their dollars local instead of crossing state lines to access different EV models. This waiver also encourages states to work in coordination with each other and federal regulators to make cars cleaner and more affordable to own and operate.

Last summer, CR launched a petition calling on the agency to reinstate the Clean Air Act waiver and submitted over 40,000 consumers’ signatures with its formal comments to EPA. In addition, CR’s team mobilized five activists to testify during an early June hearing in favor of the waiver restoration. Consumer Reports will continue to advocate for EPA to establish 2030 standards that cut emissions from new cars and light-duty trucks at least 60 percent below 2020 levels, which will save consumers over $1 trillion.

*States that have adopted California’s Low-Emission Vehicle criteria pollutant and greenhouse gas emission regulations include Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington

Contact: carsen.mata@consumer.org