OAKLAND, June 2, 2021 – California Attorney General Rob Bonta testified today before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the proposed restoration of California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act for its greenhouse gas and zero emission vehicle program.
Attorney General Bonta’s testimony as delivered:
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today on the importance of California’s greenhouse gas and zero emission vehicle standards. These standards are critical to the fight against climate change, for improving air quality and protecting public health, and for driving technological innovation.
Despite decades of effort – and significant improvements – the unfortunate reality is that too many Californians still breathe dirty air and suffer from the resulting health consequences. California cities continue to dominate the American Lung Association’s list of places with the worst air quality in the nation with seven of the ten most polluted cities by ozone; six of the ten most polluted cities by year-round particle pollution, and six of the ten most polluted cities by short-term particle pollution. These aren’t meaningless rankings – bad air quality means more premature deaths, more respiratory ailments, and more asthma cases. And as the dire realities of the climate crisis grow increasingly apparent, we’re seeing the number of “bad air” days in California go up, not down. From record heatwaves to wildfire seasons that are increasingly long and severe, the existential threat of our time is less and less difficult to imagine.
One of the best tools we have to reduce emissions, fight climate change, and protect public health is our greenhouse gas emission and zero emission vehicle standards. These standards have been adopted by thirteen states representing more than one-third of the U.S. automobile market and are currently under consideration in a number of others. The adoption of these standards not only reduces vehicular pollution in the present but drives the development and deployment of technologies that enable further emission reductions – and cost-saving – in the future.
We know this because fifty years ago, California was a pioneer in adopting vehicle emission standards — long before any federal vehicle emission standards even existed. Congress intended to encourage exactly this kind of state pioneering when it enacted Sections 209(b) and 177 of the Clean Air Act. Since then, the EPA has granted California more than 100 waivers and approved multiple state plans that rely, in part, on California’s standards to attain or maintain the federally mandated National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter and ozone. Moreover, California’s standards can help U.S. automakers remain competitive in a global market that is shifting toward cleaner and zero-emission vehicles.
Yet, despite fifty years of precedent, clear Congressional intent, and this undisputed history of success, the EPA under the Trump Administration took the unprecedented action of withdrawing a waiver it had granted to California six years earlier. I urge the EPA to swiftly reverse course.
California’s greenhouse gas and zero emissions vehicle standards are not only legal, but essential for California and other states to meet our climate goals and protect the health of our residents – particularly the health of communities that are all too often under resourced and overburdened by pollution from transportation and other sources. Communities that live at the intersection of poverty and pollution. Communities that need to see our government pushing us forward not pulling us backward in the fight against climate change.
That’s what’s at stake, and that’s why we’re here today. I am heartened by the EPA’s proposal to reaffirm California’s longstanding authority to regulate vehicle emissions, and I look forward to future collaboration on these critical issues.