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House backs GOP bill to block EPA rule on tailpipe pollution; slams plan as electric-vehicle mandate


Michael Regan, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, speaks at the U.S. Center at the COP28 U.N. Climate Summit, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Joshua A. Bickel)

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans approved a bill Wednesday to block strict new tailpipe pollution limits proposed by the Biden administration, calling the plan a back-door mandate for electric vehicles.

A rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency would require that up to two-thirds of new vehicles sold in the U.S. are electric by 2032, a nearly tenfold increase over current EV sales. The proposed regulation, announced in April, would set tailpipe emissions limits for the 2027 through 2032 model years that are the strictest ever imposed — and call for far more new EV sales than the auto industry agreed to less than two years ago.

The EPA says it is not imposing an EV mandate, but Republicans say the plan favors EVs and punishes gas engines, forcing Americans into cars and trucks they can't afford.

“Americans should have the right to decide what products and appliances work best for their family, not the federal government,'' said Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., the bill's chief sponsor.

The proposed EPA regulation would drive up costs for motorists “and hand the keys of America’s auto industry to China,” Walberg said, referring to that country's dominance over the EV battery supply chain.

The measure was approved 221-197 and now goes to the Senate, where it is unlikely to advance. Five Democrats — Reps. Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez of Texas; Don Davis of North Carolina; Jared Golden of Maine; and Mary Peltola of Alaska — voted with Republicans to block the EPA rule.

New EVs typically cost more than gas-powered cars, although prices have declined in recent months as supplies have increased and tax credits for EV purchases approved in the 2022 climate law have taken effect. EVs also have lower operating costs because they don’t require gasoline.

The average transaction price for EVs was $53,469 in July, compared with $48,334 for gas-powered cars, according to Kelley Blue Book, an automotive research company. Tesla contributed to a substantial drop in EV prices since late last year as it cut prices, the research company said.

The White House strongly opposes the GOP bill and said in a statement that President Joe Biden would veto the measure if it reaches his desk.

The bill would “catastrophically impair EPA’s ability to issue automotive regulations that protect public health, save consumers money, strengthen American energy security and protect American investments in the vehicle technologies of the future,'' the White House said in a statement.

EPA’s proposed standards for passenger cars and light trucks are performance-based, the White House said, and allow vehicle manufacturers to choose the mix of technologies best suited for their customers.

More than 100 EV models are now available in the U.S. alongside hybrid and gas-powered options, “giving Americans unprecedented flexibility in where and how they choose to fuel,'' the White House said. The EPA proposal could save Americans thousands of dollars over a vehicle's lifetime by accelerating adoption of technologies that reduce fuel and maintenance costs along with pollution, the White House said.

The GOP bill "would undermine all of these benefits, harming American consumers, companies and workers,'' the White House said.

Republicans said the EPA rule would reduce choices for car owners, “shipping our auto-future and jobs to China” in the process.

“President Biden’s rush to green agenda is failing,'' Rodgers said. “He wants us all driving EVs — 100% battery electric, not plug-in, not hybrid. We don’t agree.”

New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, the top Democrat on the energy panel, said the GOP bill would stifle innovation and cause uncertainty for American automakers. The bill includes “vague language" that could prevent EPA from ever finalizing vehicle standards for any type of motor vehicle, Pallone said.

Instead of working with Democrats on legislation to lower costs for consumers or protect public health, “the Republican majority is, once again, bringing an anti-clean vehicle bill to the floor as part of their polluters over people agenda,'' Pallone said during floor debate.

“This bill would simply prevent the EPA from doing its job,'' Pallone said, accusing House Republicans of "trying to legislate away years of innovation in clean transportation.''

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