Energy & Environment — California pushes to stay climate leader

California eyes its next steps on climate action. Meanwhile, the EPA says 15 states are overdue on air pollution plans, and Virginia may be along for the ride on new California car rules. 

This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here. 

Amid federal climate effort, California wants more

The Biden administration is ramping up federal climate action after this month’s watershed legislation, but California is showing no signs of surrendering its position leading on the issue. 

Two months ago, the Biden administration’s efforts to pass a sweeping climate bill seemed doomed to failure, and much of the momentum was relegated to the state level, fueling presidential chatter about Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).  

But now: With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), California is once again poised to take sweeping steps on climate, albeit this time against the backdrop of a newly empowered White House.   

The passage of the IRA “created an important opening for California to really step off and step back into sort of the frontrunner [role] among the states in terms of climate ambitions,” Katelyn Roedner Sutter, the Environmental Defense Fund’s climate policy lead for the state, told The Hill.  

Last week, California’s Air Resources Board announced new rules that would phase out the sales of all gas-powered vehicles in the state by 2035. Almost immediately, officials in New York, Oregon, Washington state and Rhode Island announced plans to adopt the rule as well.  

One of the reasons the Golden State has led the way on air pollution in particular is because the issue is quite literally close to home, according to Steve Cohen, director of the Master of Public Administration Program in Environmental Science and Policy at Columbia University.  

“They objectively have had some of the worst smog in the country, so the political basis for environmental policy has been there for half a century,” Cohen said.   
The state, like much of the Western U.S., has also seen an increasing drought crisis that has moved climate change well beyond the theoretical for residents.  

What’s next? With the state’s legislative session set to end Wednesday, lawmakers have teed up a broad swathe of climate-related bills. 

One Newsom-backed measure would increase the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals from 40 percent to 55 percent, relative to 1990 levels, by the end of the decade. The legislation, which has passed the State Assembly, also passed the state Senate last week but was referred back to its Appropriations Committee.   

“Part of the reason that this really is an achievable thing to do is because of the Inflation Reduction Act and the influx of investment and support, California and other states will get from the federal government,” Sutter said. “So it’s a unique moment for California to take that next step in leadership and for other states to follow.” 

Read more about the agenda here. 

EPA says 15 states missed air pollution plan deadline

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued notices to 15 states for failure to submit plans for air pollution reduction, four months after a lawsuit on the matter from a coalition of environmental groups.  

In the lawsuit, originally filed in April, four organizations charged that the EPA had neglected to enforce the Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze rule by failing to notify states that had missed the deadline to submit an air pollution reduction plan.
Plaintiffs included the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Environmental Defense Fund and the National Parks Conservation Association.  

But now: In a series of notices last week, the agency alerted the states that they had missed the deadline, officially starting the clock on a two-year window to either submit a late plan or accept an EPA-written plan. 

The EPA rule requires all states to develop a plan to reduce air pollution that has an impact on visibility in wildlife refuges or national parks. In 2017, the deadline was extended to July 2021, meaning the states hit the six-month failure-to-submit threshold on Jan. 31.   

The states receiving notices are Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia. 

“The air pollution that causes haze in our national parks originates from sources that are often in the middle of communities that have suffered from decades of environmental injustices,” Holly Bender, senior director for energy campaigns at Sierra Club, said in a statement. 

Read more about the notices here. 

Virginia AG: State bound by gas-powered car rule

California’s newly announced rule barring the sale of new gas-powered cars in 2035 will apply to Virginia as well under the terms of a 2021 state law, Attorney General Jason Miyares’s (R) office confirmed to The Hill on Monday.  

In 2021, the state General Assembly, where Democrats then held majorities in both chambers, passed a law requiring the state to adopt the same automobile standards as those adopted by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Although Democrats lost their majority in the state House of Delegates in 2021, efforts to repeal the legislation in this year’s legislative session were unsuccessful.  

California’s new rule, passed last week, will also apply to Virginia, Miyares spokesperson Victoria LaCivita confirmed to The Hill. The news was first reported by The Virginia Mercury.  

“The Attorney General is hopeful that the General Assembly repeals this law and discontinues any trend that makes Virginia more like California,” LaCivita told The Hill in an email. “Unelected California bureaucrats should not be dictating the will of Virginians.”  

Virginia is one of 15 states that have adopted an earlier CARB standard that imposes stricter tailpipe emissions standards than the federal rule. 
The rule on new gas-powered vehicles does not apply to used cars or restrict the use of existing gas-powered cars. Under the terms of the 2021 law, the California rule would not take effect until 2024, giving Republicans in the legislature at least one more chance to attempt repeal, particularly if they take the state Senate in 2023. 

Read more about the rule here. 


Get ready for Southern California’s hottest and longest heat wave of the year (The Los Angeles Times) Major sea-level rise caused by melting of Greenland ice cap is ‘now inevitable’ (The Guardian) The Last Days of Isle de Jean Charles: A Louisiana tribe’s struggle to escape the rising sea ( A melting glacier, an imperiled city and one farmer’s fight for climate justice (The Washington Post) FERC endorses nation’s largest dam removal project (E&E News) 

🚰 Lighter click: Has anyone seen *checks notes* 16 million gallons of water?

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.  


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