The House passed legislation on Thursday that would prevent states from forcing automakers to go electric by phasing out sales of new gas-powered vehicles to combat climate change.
The GOP-led chamber voted 222-190 — with the support of more than a half-dozen Democrats — to alter the Clean Air Act so that the Environmental Protection Agency is prohibited from allowing states to implement rules that directly or indirectly curtail the sales of vehicles with internal combustion engines.
The Preserving Choice in Vehicle Purchases Act would thereby reject California’s pending request to the Biden administration for a waiver to ban the sales of all new gas-powered cars by 2035. Seventeen states have previously adopted all or part of California’s past vehicle standards, which are the strictest in the nation and require waivers because they go beyond federal emissions rules.
“This bill says the market is driven by what the consumer wants,” Rep. David Joyce, the Pennsylvania Republican who wrote the bills, told The Washington Times. “California and California’s regulations shouldn’t set the standards to impact the entire market.”
Eight Democrats supported the measure along with all the chamber’s Republicans, marking the latest instance of Democratic lawmakers, primarily those in competitive districts, bucking President Biden on his green energy agenda. The Democrats who broke with Mr. Biden this time were Jared Golden of Maine, Henry Cuellar of Texas, Jim Costa of California, Yadira Caraveo of Colorado, Don Davis of North Carolina, Brian Higgins of New York, Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington and Gabe Vasquez of New Mexico.
The legislation is dead on arrival in the Democratic-led Senate.
The White House warned the measure would “restrict the ability of California and its citizens to address its severe air pollution challenges.”
“Congress acted to preserve California’s authority to regulate emissions from vehicles over 50 years ago and repeatedly ratified and strengthened that authority in subsequent enactments,” the White House Office of Management and Budget said.
House Democrats charged Republicans with ignoring climate change and caving to the whims of Big Oil.
“The transportation sector is the single largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions and other dangerous air pollution, but once again Republicans want to bury their heads in the sand and ignore reality,” said Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee. “Nobody is taking away your gas-powered vehicle. Republicans are fearmongering in a deliberate effort to mislead the American people.”
The Biden administration is proposing a tailpipe emissions rule of its own that would force automakers nationwide to sell a majority of EVs by 2030 and up to 67% by 2032.
Fourteen of the 17 states, predominantly Democrat-run states, are in the process of or have already adopted versions of the California rule.
Taken together, California and the 17 states that frequently follow its lead account for roughly 40% of light-duty vehicle sales nationwide. Automakers typically adapt their vehicle lineups to comply with California regulations for this reason, prompting fierce accusations from Republicans that the Biden administration is circumventing the legislative process to force new nationwide policies by way of a single state.
“There’s one national car market. The California carveout was not meant to create a de facto ban on internal combustion engines,” Mr. Joyce said. “If you’re in California and want an EV, that’s perfect. It’s just not a choice among my constituents.”