Bringing Back California’s Lead in Clean Air and Rebates

As directed in President Biden’s Executive Order 13990 on “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis,” and in response to requests by states and other stakeholders, today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking public input on its reconsideration of the Agency’s 2019 action titled The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule Part One: One National Program Rule (SAFE-1) for the purposes of rescinding the action taken by the prior administration.

“I am a firm believer in California’s long-standing statutory authority to lead. The 2019 decision to revoke the state’s waiver to enforce its greenhouse gas pollution standards for cars and trucks was legally dubious and an attack on the public’s health and wellbeing,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Today, we are delivering on President Biden’s clear direction to tackle the climate crisis by taking a major step forward to restore state leadership and advance EPA’s greenhouse gas pollution reduction goals.”

EPA is reconsidering actions taken by the previous administration in SAFE-1. The purpose of this Notice of Reconsideration is to seek comment on a number of issues in the 2019 SAFE-1 action including:
•    Whether it was proper for EPA to reconsider a previously issued CAA waiver.
•    Whether EPA’s action to withdraw California’s waiver in consideration of EPCA preemption was appropriate.
•    Whether the SAFE-1 interpretation of the CAA that enabled EPA to withdraw California’s waiver was appropriate.
•    Whether the SAFE-1 interpretation of CAA section 177 that could disallow other states’ ability to adopt California GHG emission standards was appropriate.

The agency will hold a virtual public hearing on June 2, and the public comment period on the Notice of Reconsideration will be open until July 6.

EPA will be taking a separate action to reconsider the previous administration’s final rule titled The Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Final Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 (SAFE-2). EPA plans to propose this rule in July 2021.

California EV Rebates Almost Gone

Meanwhile the California EV Rebate Program is so popular it is running out of funds.

In response to strong demand for electric vehicles, the California Air Resources Board expects rebate funds for the statewide Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP) to be exhausted within 30 days.

Electric vehicles (EVs) account for nearly 8 percent of all light-duty vehicles sold in California. Over 145,000 EVs were sold in California in 2020 with a majority of sales taking place in the latter half of the year. Through the first quarter of 2021, CVRP rebate applications have already exceeded levels seen in early 2020, with substantially higher participation by low- and moderate-income consumers. This growing interest has led to a quicker draw on available funds through CVRP than anticipated. Existing funding for both standard and increased rebates is projected to be fully reserved in the coming weeks.

A waitlist will be established for applications and applicants will receive a rebate contingent on funding appropriated through the legislative budget process. There are additional opportunities throughout the state that consumers can take advantage of, including the Clean Fuel Reward, the Clean Air Vehicle Decal, and various local incentives offered by air districts and local governments.

“Almost two-thirds of current EV owners have taken advantage of this program, and it’s a key driver of the EV market,” CARB Executive Officer Richard W. Corey said. “More importantly, the demand for EVs, particularly by lower income consumers, continues to grow, clearly demonstrating that there is a broad range of models of EVs available today to meet all consumer needs.”

Created in 2010, CVRP has played a key role in supporting the deployment of EVs in California, which leads the nation in EV adoption. Nearly 65 percent of all California EV owners have received a CVRP incentive. The project has issued over $926 million to state residents for more than 405,750 new EVs.

Since 2016, when the project instituted caps for higher-income applicants and created increased rebates for lower income-qualified consumers, 34 percent of rebate funding, or $182.9 million, has gone to lower-income applicants and those living in disadvantaged communities. The percentage grew to 38 percent last year.

As the end of current funding draws closer, information about CVRP’s waitlist will be posted at cleanvehiclerebate.org.

More programs support EV buyers

There are other related programs that also support consumers considering purchasing or leasing an electric vehicle. The California Clean Fuel Reward program offers all EV purchasers up to $1,500 off the vehicle cost at the point of sale. CARB offers additional EV purchase incentive programs for lower-income consumers including Clean Cars 4 All, which offers up to $9,500 for scrapping an older car and replacing it with an EV, and the Clean Vehicle Assistance Program, which offers grants of up to $5,000 to pay for a hybrid electric vehicle or plug-in EV and access to affordable financing. Clean Cars 4 All is available in participating air districts, which include the South Coast Air Quality Management District, San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District. Three of the air districts — not includg Sacramento Metro air district — are expected to exhaust their existing Clean Cars 4 All funding by July 2021. Applicants may contact their local air district for specific program information. Please visit the respective websites for each program for more information.

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