California Attorney General leads nationwide coalition calling for stiffer emissions standards

Robert J Hansen
California wildlife (above) California Attorney General Rob Bonta (below).Courtesy National Geographic and Twitter

California Attorney General Rob Bonta led a coalition of 22 attorneys general, from Denver to New York and others, urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to adopt more stringent greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) standards for passenger cars and light trucks last week.

The transportation sector accounts for nearly one-third of all GHG emissions in the United States. The full report can be found here.

“Climate change is real, it’s here, and its impacts are all around us,” Bonta said in a written statement. “From record-breaking wildfires and a devastating drought to toxic and suffocating air that too many Californians breathe every day, we’re running out of time. We must act on climate now.”

Reducing emissions from this sector is essential to stave off the worst effects of the climate crisis and to confront the inequitable distribution of climate change impacts, which have a disproportionate effect on low-income communities and communities of color, the statement said.

“Industries, individuals, and governments alike must step up and work together to preserve our planet and protect the health of our communities,” Bonta said. “It’s going to take every tool in our toolkit to get this done, and GHG standards for vehicles are some of the best tools we have.”

More stringent standards will also decrease fine particulate air pollution and ozone two pollutants that cause significant adverse health impacts. 

According to EPA estimates, the proposed standards would result in between $86 billion and $140 billion of total net benefits.

UC Davis Energy Economics Program Director David Rapson addressed the challenge of decarbonizing the electrical grid, another major component of fighting climate change in a July interview.

Dispatchable generation from fossil sources is a different product than from intermittent renewables which cannot be turned on and off.

“We’re talking about getting rid of something you can turn on and off and replacing it with something you can’t,” Rapson said.

According to Rapson, until electricity can be stored in mass, some fossil fuels are needed.

“Until you have that, you’re going to need to use something you can turn on and off,” Rapson said.

Rapson said there is no solution to replacing large and mid-size hauling trucks.

Medium and heavy-duty vehicles make up 20 percent of GHG emissions from the transportation sector yet only make up 10 percent of vehicles on the road

according to the EPA.

“Nobody knows the answer to that question,” Rapson said. “If anyone tells you they know the answer to that question they’re lying,” Rapson said.

On August 5, 2021, EPA announced plans to reduce GHG emissions and other harmful air pollutants from heavy-duty trucks through a series of rulemakings over the next three years. 

The first rulemaking, to be finalized in 2022, will apply to heavy-duty vehicles starting in the model year 2027.

In 2020, there were 22 billion-dollar weather events, recorded since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began tracking the cost of these disasters, the most ever.

The average number of billion-dollar events since 1980 is seven; the average number since 2015 is more than double at roughly 15.

The coalition argued that the EPA should reduce threats to public health and welfare from harmful air pollution.

Automakers are well-positioned to meet the more stringent standards, as early as the model year 2023 according to the coalition.

The EPA’s analysis supports the finalization of more stringent standards.

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Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Focused on holding elected officials, police and the courts accountable to the people throughout the greater Sacramento area.

Sacramento, CA

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