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A warning from the head of the Environmental Protection Agency to Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom that his recent executive order mandating all vehicles in the state to be electric-powered by 2035 may be illegal also came with a gibe as well.
Namely, that the state already has difficulty fulfilling the electrical needs of its residents.
“California’s record of rolling blackouts—unprecedented in size and scope—coupled with recent requests to neighboring states for power begs the question of how you expect to run an electric car fleet that will come with significant increases in electricity demand, when you can’t even keep the lights on today,” Administrator Andrew Wheeler wrote.
In a letter, the U.S. EPA administrator tells Newsom that his executive order mandating only new electric car sales in California by 2035 may be illegal and questions the feasibility of the increase demand in electricity "when you can't even keep the lights on today." pic.twitter.com/f3piV4UtZe
— Alexei Koseff (@akoseff) September 28, 2020
The EPA chief also said that while Newsom’s executive order “is mostly aspirational and on its own would accomplish very little,” any attempt to implement even portions of it by the California Air Resources Board would need approval from the agency, adding that the Trump administration withdrew the state’s power to regulate its own vehicle emissions standards last year.
“The truth is that if the state were driving 100 percent electric vehicles today, the state would be dealing with even worse power shortages then the ones that have already caused a series of otherwise preventable environmental and public health consequences,” Wheeler added.
He then noted a few recent examples including a wastewater pump station failure caused by a power outage that led to the spillage of some 50,000 gallons of untreated water into the Oakland Estuary.
“By setting realistic goals and maintaining a comprehensive awareness of impacts to the economy, we have achieved tangible environmental progress while improving the lives and livelihoods of our citizenry,” Wheeler said.
“I urge you to step away from commitments to singular technologies,” he continued, adding that a better alternative is to “provide innovators the freedom to develop the technologies of tomorrow.”
Last month, California lawmakers and residents expressed frustration and outrage at rolling blackouts that affected millions of people — blackouts that the state’s power grid management agency were needed to balance supply and demand, The New York Times reported.
Newsom demanded an investigation into why the blackouts were needed.
“These blackouts, which occurred without prior warning or enough time for preparation, are unacceptable and unbefitting of the nation’s largest and most innovative state,” he wrote in a letter to the three California energy agencies.
As for Wheeler’s letter, Newsom’s office pushed back.
“While the Trump Administration tries to drive this country off a climate cliff, California is once again assuming the mantle of leadership in the fight against climate change,” said Jesse Melgar, Newsom’s press secretary, in a statement. “We aren’t going to back down from protecting our kids’ health and the air they breathe.”
Newsom’s order, which was signed last week, is the most ambitious yet by any state to cut vehicular emissions. But the order is only aimed at sales of new vehicles and will not ban Californians from owning or selling existing gas-powered vehicles, Newsom said last week.
While California could become the first state to ban gas-powered vehicles if the order were to stand and be implemented, European countries including France and Germany have outlined similar long-term objectives, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
“Of all the simultaneous crises that we face as a state…none is more forceful than the issue of the climate crisis,” Newsom said. “What we’re advancing here today is a strategy to address that crisis head-on, to be as bold as the problem is big.”
The Trump administration, meanwhile, blasted the order and framed it as a stereotypical government overreach.
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