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White House opposes bill to strip California of vehicle emissions authority

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The White House on Tuesday said it strongly opposes a Republican bill set to be voted on this week by the U.S. House of Representatives that would prevent California from receiving federal waivers to set standards limiting the sale of new gas-powered motor vehicles.

The bill faces long odds of winning approval in the Senate, where Democrats have made boosting electric vehicles a top priority. But it might pick up some Democratic support in the House, and the future of cars could be a potent political issue in the 2024 election for Congress and the White House.

California's Air Resources Board (CARB) in May asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve its plan to require all new vehicles sold in the state by 2035 to be either electric or plug-in electric hybrids, a landmark move that could speed the end of gasoline-powered vehicles.

The House bill would strip the EPA of authority to grant the waiver. California has received other waivers from EPA to set emissions limits for heavy trucks and other vehicles.

"Heavy-handed government intervention – like California’s proposal to ban internal combustion engine vehicles – limits consumer choice and infringes upon Americans' freedoms," said Republican Representative John Joyce said.

The White House noted Congress gave California authority to regulate emissions from vehicles more than 50 years ago, but did not issue a veto threat. The Biden administration has repeatedly refused to endorse setting a date to phase out the sale of internal combustion engine cars and trucks.

Former President Donald Trump, who is seeking the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has repeatedly accused the Biden administration of seeking to force an end to internal combustion vehicles.

Under an EPA proposal to cut vehicle emissions, automakers are forecast to produce 60% EVs by 2030 and 67% by 2032 to meet requirements, compared with 5.8% of U.S. vehicles sold in 2022 that were EVs.

California's zero-emission rules will cut by 25% smog-causing pollution from light-duty vehicles by 2037. The rules mandate that 35% of the new cars sold be plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV), EVs or hydrogen fuel cell by 2026. That proportion will rise to 68% by 2030 and 100% by 2035.

A total of 17 states have agreed to adopt California's EV rules.

CARB's regulation would allow automakers to sell up to 20% PHEVs by 2035 with a minimum 50-mile (80 km) all-electric range.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Mark Porter and Jamie Freed)