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Biden Admin Outsourcing Energy Policies To Unelected Blue State Bureaucrats

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The Biden administration effectively allows energy policy decisions with wide ramifications to be made by unelected bureaucrats in California.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has key outstanding requests with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enact certain environmental regulations that go above and beyond federal rules, and the EPA has granted CARB waiver requests over the course of President Joe Biden’s first term. Over time, these waivers and the policy outcomes they facilitate will allow CARB to alter the economies of other states, including those that do not wish to be impacted by CARB’s rules and have no influence over the agency, according to policy experts who spoke with the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“EPA-granted waivers enable CARB to effectively dictate motor vehicle, trucking, and rail transport policies for the rest of the country,” Marlo Lewis Jr., a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told the DCNF.

The Biden administration allows CARB to pursue aggressive emissions regulations and climate policies because “it is more obvious that EPA lacks Clean Air Act authority to explicitly ban sales of combustion engine vehicles than to demonstrate that CARB lacks such authority” and because “the Biden administration would incur much greater political blowback if it tried to adopt an express zero emission vehicle mandate,” according to Lewis.

The EPA will grant Clean Air Act waivers for California if the state proposes to impose rules that are more aggressive than existing federal standards, faces “compelling and extraordinary” circumstances and gives manufacturers sufficient time to adjust and comply, according to CARB.

“EPA follows the prescribed process in the Clean Air Act regarding any California waiver decisions,” an agency spokesperson told the DCNF. “In this waiver review process, EPA issues a public comment period, EPA reviews the comments, and the Administrator determines whether the requirements for obtaining an authorization have been met.”

CARB considers the waivers to be an important policy tool to cut emissions.

“For more than 50 years, the Clean Air Act has allowed California to seek a federal government waiver in order to enforce its own motor vehicle standards,” a CARB spokesperson told the DCNF. “In enacting this law, Congress recognized that California experienced significant air pollution problems and had been regulating vehicle emissions at a time when the federal government had not yet adopted comparable standards. This law is well-established and has been highly effective.”

California is the only state in the U.S. that is able to set its own vehicle emissions standards, according to the EPA. The Trump administration effectively blocked California from doing so, but the Biden administration subsequently restored California’s ability to pursue more stringent auto emissions rules than those established by the federal government, according to E&E News.

With the Biden administration’s blessing, CARB has advanced its Advanced Clean Cars II rules, which will require 100% of new passenger vehicles sold in the state to be zero-emissions models by 2035.

There are 17 other states that have adopted some or all of CARB’s rules for auto emissions, according to CARB, with those states cumulatively accounting for about half of all U.S. auto sales, according to Politico. Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin recently announced that his state would not be abiding by CARB’s Advanced Clean Cars II rules.

Critics have pointed out that the CARB waivers can create situations where manufacturers face two different sets of standards for their products, meaning that manufacturers will likely design their products to accommodate the more stringent CARB rules rather than designing two sets of products for two different standards.

In the case of vehicles, car manufacturers are more likely to make all of their vehicles compliant with CARB’s emissions rules rather than produce one fleet to meet CARB’s standards and another fleet that meets less stringent regulations, Ring told the DCNF.

“From the Biden administration’s perspective, it’s very noticeable how the same goals are being pushed by California, and their goal, pretty obviously, is to push them onto the rest of the country,” OH Skinner, executive director of the Alliance for Consumers, told the DCNF. “The goal is, even if they lose on one of these endeavors, is to force industry and other groups into compliance, either directly or by making it impossible for industries to not see the writing on the wall.”

“California is fixated on exporting progressive lifestyle choices to other parts of the country, and that comes in the form of electric vehicle mandates, it comes in the form of electric train and truck mandates that they’re trying to impose,” Skinner continued. “When you are moving things out of ports in California, which has a lot of ports, that means that it’s not going to be possible for people to get the products they need without them first passing through California, in many cases … they’re very aware that the size of the state and its location can dramatically force industries into compliance, even if a vast majority of that industry or its customers don’t want that.”

The federal government also granted CARB permission to push another rule that bans the sale of new diesel-powered heavy-duty trucks starting in 2036, and disallows trucking companies that move products between state’s ports and distribution hubs from registering new diesel rigs with the state.

This CARB action figures to have drastic impacts on the American economy, as fledgling zero-emissions truck technology is expensive, with extra costs coming down to consumers through the goods they purchase that enter the U.S. via California’s ports, trucking industry experts previously explained to the DCNF. California’s 12 ports process approximately 40% of all imported containers to the U.S. and 30% of all of the country’s shipping container exports, according to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office.

CARB also has major waiver requests that the EPA has not yet ruled on, including a rule that would ban the use of locomotives that are more than 23 years past their manufacturing date unless they run using zero-emissions technology. Like the trucking rule, the locomotive proposal figures to have major ramifications for the wider American economy because the costs of transforming its rail system — with technology that is not currently commercially viable — will be felt beyond the state’s borders, according to its opponents.

A coalition of more than 60 trade groups — including the National Association of Manufacturers, the Beer Institute and the Aluminum Association — wrote an April letter to the EPA urging the agency to reject the waiver request, explaining their concerns about CARB’s proposal.

“This regulation from CARB has the potential to create significant disruptions in the supply chain for all sectors of the U.S. economy, especially manufacturers and shippers who rely on consistent, reliable rail service,” the letter states. “This rule could lead to delays for businesses and increased costs for both shippers and consumers that could ultimately lead to a massive supply chain crisis. If railroads are forced to spend large amounts of money to ensure compliance with this rule, those costs will be passed along the entire supply chain and could inhibit rail service at facilities across the country – not just in California.”

“The issue is that no viable technology exists today to move freight beyond yards on a zero-emissions basis,” the letter continues. “Despite aggressive [research and development] and innovation in the rail sector and significant private investments, the technologies to achieve this rule simply do not exist at this point.”

There is no timetable for a decision on that waiver or other outstanding requests, the EPA spokesperson told the DCNF. CARB, meanwhile, looks forward to hearing from the federal government about its pending waiver requests, the CARB spokesperson said.

“The staffers who actually write CARB’s regulations are in many cases more zealous and ideologically motivated than their politically-appointed directors to put California on the bleeding edge of these issues not just in the U.S., but globally,” Edward Ring, the director of water and energy policy at the California Policy Institute, told the DCNF. “They’re true believers.”

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