Berkeley leaders, organizations weigh in on reinstated US Environmental Protection Agency regulations

Photo of a line of cars
Lisi Ludwig/Senior Staff
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is moving to reinstate California’s Clean Air Act waiver, which would allow the state to set its own vehicle emissions standards.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday that it will move to reinstate California’s Clean Air Act waiver, which allows the state to set its own vehicle emissions standards.

This policy overturned a previous Trump-era policy that set vehicle emissions standards at the federal level and did not allow California to set its own rules, according to a statement from California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Newsom added that the policy will usher in electric and zero-emission vehicles to help fight climate change. 

“California welcomes the resumption of our decades-long collaboration with federal partners to develop strong vehicle emissions standards into the next decade,Newsom said in the statement.

Transportation makes up 60% of greenhouse gas emissions in Berkeley, according to Sarah Moore, program manager in Berkeley’s Office of Energy and Sustainable Development.

Moore added that she is happy that California is able to set its own standards for vehicle emissions because it will help Berkeley become a fossil fuel-free city and support Berkeley’s climate emergency declaration.

“This work reduces air pollution, locally and globally, and improves the health and resilience of our community,” Moore said in an email.

The policy will also help implement Berkeley’s Electric Mobility Roadmap, which will build a fossil fuel-free transportation system, according to Moore.

Berkeley has been promoting the electrification of vehicles as well as working to electrify the city’s fleet, according to Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín.

“Eliminating our dependency on fossil fuels is critical to reducing the impacts of climate change,” Arreguín said in an email.

UC Berkeley CalPIRG campus organizer Sander Kushen said his organization has a vision to see California powered completely by renewable energy by 2030 and welcomes any policy that realizes this vision.

Kushen said he hopes Berkeley will see this policy as an opportunity to “push the envelope” by creating new technologies and policies to move toward renewable energies.

“To stop climate change, we need to completely stop our dependence on fossil fuels as quickly as possible,” Kushen said in an email.

California has been a leader in climate policy, and allowing the state to ramp down emissions will help to halt global warming, according to UC Berkeley Earth and planetary science professor David Romps.

Romps said this policy will allow the state to rapidly move away from gas and diesel vehicles toward electric-powered vehicles.

“To decarbonize the grid and electrify everything, we need as many tools at our disposal as possible,” Romps said in an email. “These tools can include standards on the fraction of electric power generation that is zero-carbon.”

For next steps, Romps said policymakers should consider lowering the cost of electricity, which would promote electrifying homes, businesses and factories in addition to vehicles.

Shylie Ati is an academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @shylieati.