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Repugnican States Sue To Block Already Weakened Exhaust Emissions Rules

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One month ago, in a move hailed as one of the most significant climate actions in US history, the Biden administration announced a new rule regulating exhaust emissions. The rule, which calls for a 56% reduction in fleet-wide average carbon emissions by 2032, constitutes the strictest ever limit on pollution from the nation’s cars and light trucks. “Today, we’re setting new pollution standards for cars and trucks,” President Biden said in a statement. “US workers will lead the world on autos making clean cars and trucks, each stamped ‘Made in America.’ You have my word.” EVs made up just 7.6 percent of new car sales in the US last year. The EPA said it expects EV sales will increase to between 35 and 56 percent by 2032.

In essence, the new rule dials back the stringency of the emissions standards now and for the next few years but makes up the difference later. In theory, as sales of electric cars ramp up after 2030, the net effect will be pretty much the same as when first proposed — a dramatic reduction in exhaust emissions that will not only lower carbon emissions but other forms of pollution as well.

By the time the new rule is fully implemented in 2035, it will have cumulatively slashed more than 7 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions, officials told reporters when the new rule was announced in March. It will also slash fine particulate emissions by 95 percent and oxides of nitrogen and other volatile organic compounds by 75%.

The reduction in fine particulates should make people sit up and notice. Those are the tiny particles less than 2.5 microns in size that pass directly into the human bloodstream in the lungs and cause pulmonary and cardiovascular damage, especially in children. Fine particulates today are found in the placentas of pregnant women, in human breast milk, and often in the body tissues of children — especially their brains.

Is The Exhaust Emissions Rule An EV Mandate?

Lame duck senator Joe Manchin said he would support Republican efforts to overturn the new EPA rule. In a statement, he called it “reckless and ill-informed” and said it “will impose what is effectively an EV mandate without ensuring the security of our supply chains from nations like China and without a realistic transition plan that addresses our domestic infrastructure needs.” Manchin, who makes a fortune every year peddling a particularly dirty form of coal, could care less about the lungs and brains of children — especially if it means more money in his pocket.

The attorneys general of 25 states controlled by magalomaniac extremists also could care less about the health of young children. On April 18, 2024, they sued the Environmental Protection Agency to block the new exhaust emissions rule, arguing the agency exceeded its legal authority. Kentucky Attorney General Russell Coleman said the rules would harm the American economy, threaten jobs, and raise prices while undermining the US electricity grid. Coleman also said there is very little consumer interest in electric vehicles in his state.

Repugnicans said the rules amount to an attempt by the administration to transform the American passenger vehicle market improperly through strict rules that force manufacturers to manufacture electric vehicles. “The Biden administration is willing to sacrifice the American auto industry and its workers in service of its radical green agenda. We just aren’t buying it,” Coleman said. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey called the rules “legally flawed and unrealistic, to say the least.”

As a group, the legal eagles from all those red states — not only Kentucky and West Virginia but also Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming — said during the public comment period before the new rule was announced that it goes well beyond the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act and amounts to a “top to bottom attempt to restructure the automobile industry.”

The final version of the regulations was scaled back compared to an earlier proposal in order to give automakers more flexibility in meeting the emissions reduction goals. The EPA gave automakers the freedom to meet emissions standards by building more hybrids and plug-in hybrids and said the final rule cuts emissions by 49% by 2032 over 2026 levels compared with 56% under its previous plan. EPA chief Michael Regan said the rule imposes “absolutely no mandate” on manufacturers to adopt electric vehicles.

It is odd that these AGs are taking up this fight when the UAW and the Alliance For Automotive Innovation, an industry trade group that represents America’s legacy automakers, have made positive comments on the matter. On the day the new rule was announced, the UAW said in a statement, “By taking seriously the concerns of workers and communities, the EPA has created a more feasible emissions rule that protects workers building ICE vehicles, while providing a path forward for automakers to implement the full range of automotive technologies to reduce emissions.“ John Bozzella, president of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, said, “The right pace for something this consequential and transformative … gives us a chance to secure the manufacturing and industrial base needed for long term success.”

RAGA Rage

Nevertheless, right wing extremists and Faux News talking heads are calling the new rule an “EV mandate” every chance they get and suggesting it is a threat to our “way of life,” as if causing illness and early deaths is a treasured American value, as if making the Earth so hot that the polar ice caps melt and temperatures soar to the point that people can’t breathe is a wondrous thing that we should all be proud of.

Bill McKibben recently wrote on Substack, “Capitalism — which regularly acts homicidally — is acting truly suicidally. Having been warned for years now, it resists every effort to rein in its excesses. As Exxon’s CEO helpfully explained earlier this year, it’s not that you couldn’t make good money from renewable energy, you just couldn’t make ‘above average returns’ because sunshine is free. So instead we’ll tank the world, and with it the world economy.”

CleanTechnica readers, who are all above average, may find it curious that the attorney general of every red state has decided to join this lawsuit. How does such cooperation happen? MAGA lunatic are always looking for conspiracy theories and here is one happening right out in plain sight.

Is anyone curious how something like that happens? The answer is yes. Thanks to the investigative reporting by Heated and the Center For Media And Democracy, we know who is behind this brazen attempt to overrule the EPA. Surprise, surprise! It’s Big Oil! Virtually the same group of attorneys general is backing a petition by Sunoco and other major oil companies to derail a lawsuit filed against them by the city and county of Honolulu that seeks damages for the destruction they have caused.

To understand how these 20 state attorneys general are connected to the fossil fuel industry, you first must understand The Republican Attorneys General Association, known as RAGA, Heated suggests. “RAGA is a pay to play group,” says Lisa Graves, the executive director of the watchdog group True North Research. “It was created to allow industries to wash money into RAGA, which RAGA then uses to fuel the election campaigns and ambitions of AGs.”

According to research by Heated and CMD, all 20 state attorneys general involved in the Honolulu litigation are not only featured on RAGA’s website, but many were elected with RAGA’s help. “These AGs, their political futures are underwritten by RAGA,” Graves said. “And who underwrites RAGA? The fossil fuel industry, along with Leonard Leo.”

Ahhh, Leonard Leo. Does that name ring a bell? It should. CMD says RAGA brought in $5.3 million in contributions in the first three months of 2024 — almost one million more than it raised in the first quarter of 2020, the last major election cycle. A $1 million contribution from The Concord Fund made Leonard Leo’s nonprofit funding vehicle (formerly registered as the Judicial Crisis Network) the top donor to RAGA, bringing the total it has donated to the Republican attorneys general group to $17.8 million since it was first registered with the IRS in 2014. Leo has injected right wing groups with cash to fight sustainable investing, upend women’s healthcare rights, advance voter suppression policies, and shift the nation’s courts to the far right.

Some of you may recall that Leo is the one person most responsible for packing the US Supreme Court with useful idiots like Clarence Thomas. Other members who owe their jobs to Leo include John Roberts, Sam Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Bryant. That’s right, one person has hand picked six of the nine members of the court. Advice and consent of the Senate? Oh, please.

The Takeaway

What we are seeing here is part of a much larger plan to wrest control of America away from the federal government and place it in the hands of the states. There was a time when everything happened in Washington, DC, which is why lobbying came to be a major industry in that city. But reactionaries realized several decades ago their fight to keep America a plantation society was losing out along the Potomac, and so a command decision was made to shift their efforts to capturing state governments.

That strategy has worked wonderfully well, largely because it has largely been carried out in secret by minions loyal not to the citizenry but to the smell of money being doled out by Charles Koch and his ilk. All the blather about “states rights” is just a smoke screen for a plot to dismember America and keep it subservient to the unlimited flow of cash flooding into the political arena thanks to the infamous Citizens United decision.

Opposing the exhaust emissions rule is just part of the game envisioned by Koch and company to keep raking in all that lovely money the fossil fuel industry keeps generating for the benefit of a favored few. These people don’t care a flying fig leaf about reproductive rights or unisex bathrooms or critical race theory. Those are just levers they pull to manipulate voters into supporting their preferred candidates — people who can be counted on to deliver the goods for their oil and gas soaked master when called upon. Any similarity to how Don Corleone ran his criminal empire in The Godfather is strictly coincidental, of course.


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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

Steve Hanley has 5541 posts and counting. See all posts by Steve Hanley