GOP Congressmen Seek Federal Law to Override California’s Gas-Powered Vehicle Ban

By Jill McLaughlin
Jill McLaughlin
Jill McLaughlin
March 10, 2023Updated: March 14, 2023

Republican congressmen filed legislation on March 8 to prevent states such as California from banning the sale of gas-fueled cars and light trucks.

The Preserving Choice in Vehicle Purchases Act—introduced by Reps. John Joyce (R-Pa.), Bob Latta (R-Ohio), Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), and Jay Obernolte (R-Calif.)—would restrict the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from issuing the waiver California needs to enact regulations such as the one passed last year to ban the sale of new gas cars by 2035.

“We have seen time and again that heavy-handed government intervention – like California’s proposal to ban internal combustion engine vehicles – limits consumer choice and infringes upon Americans’ freedoms when choosing what’s best for themselves and their families,” Latta said in a release. “California’s misguided proposal will have ramifications that go well beyond its own borders and would make it more difficult for Americans to get to work, drop their kids off at school, and travel to visit loved ones.”

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A fueling station pump with various grades of fuel, including E15, which contains more ethanol, in Lawrence, Kansas, on July 11, 2012. (Renewable Fuels Association, Robert White/AP Photo)

The federal bill has already won the support of the Illinois Corn Growers Association, a group that represents the interest of corn farmers in the state.

“It’s alarming that a state would take actions to remove Americans’ option for affordable and reliable transportation without concern for practicality,” Matt Ruch, president of the association, wrote on March 8. “While we support all technologies that can help the U.S. reach our climate goals, we know that ethanol blends at the pump are a common-sense solution that is available now.”

The proposed federal legislation would amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit the EPA from issuing any state waivers that would ban the sale or use of a new internal combustion vehicle.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted on the ban in August 2022, but the state still needs to wait for the EPA waiver before it can restrict the sale of these cars.

CARB’s Advanced Clean Cars II regulations require the state to gradually phase out gas-powered car sales in California in the next 12 years. The rules require 35 percent of all cars manufactured in 2026 and sold in the state to be zero-emission.

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A Tesla car sits parked at a Tesla Supercharger in Petaluma, Calif., on Sept. 23, 2020. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

People would still be able to buy used gas-fueled cars after the state’s deadline, and a small percentage of new plug-in hybrids could also be sold in the state.

By passing the policy, CARB hopes to “substantially reduce air pollutants that threaten public health,” the board stated in August 2022.

CARB has admitted that their regulations would extend beyond the state’s borders, with 17 other states ready to follow California’s standards, the congressmen said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office didn’t return requests for comment about the proposed changes to the federal Clean Air Act. In the past few years, he has called for a large number of new regulations and investments to accelerate the state’s transition to renewable energy.