IRA and IIJA complement the proposed EPA clean car standards to mitigate climate change, help environmental justice communities and national security 

September 28, 2023

By Ramona du Houx

With the United Auto Workers (UAW) on strike, elected officials from Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA) spoke about the imperative for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) proposed clean car standards to be enacted on September 27 during a virtual zoom press conference.

Here is the recording:

The EPA proposed clean car standards will accelerate the transition to electric vehicles, grow jobs, and protect people. Veterans who are elected officials also highlighted how the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) complement the proposed EPA clean car standards to mitigate climate change, help environmental justice communities and national security. 

The EPA has proposed federal emission standards that aim to ensure 67 percent of new light-duty vehicles and 25 percent of new heavy-duty trucks sold in the United States are electric by 2032. Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA) encourages the passage of these strong EPA standards.

“The transportation sector is the largest source of climate pollution in the U.S. Cleaning up this dangerous pollution is one of the most important things we can do to fight the climate crisis, protect our children’s future and national security,” said Alex Cornell du Houx, former Maine state Representative, Marine combat veteran, President of Elected Officials to Protect America and Co-Founder. “Tailpipe pollution harms the health of our families. Tragically, and unjustly, communities of color living near heavily trafficked roads and highways suffer the most.”

In the United States, transportation generates more greenhouse gasses than any other sector, making up 27 percent of total emissions and 45 percent of all U.S. oil consumption. Speeding up the transition to electric vehicles will reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and hydrocarbons, helping to improve air quality in communities across the country.

“For decades our environmental justice communities have been subjected to the worst pollution New Mexico produces. This impacts the cognitive abilities of children and worst of all their health, leading to lifelong lung issues, or worse cancer. The communities most impacted are low-income, and have high populations of people of color. These are our environmental justice zones,” said Debbie Sariñana, New Mexico State Representative Air Force Veteran, EOPA National Leadership Council Co-Chair, former school teacher. “As an Air Force veteran, former school teacher and state representative, I say, enough is enough. It’s time the EPA brings justice to our state and helps our communities who need it the most. Nationwide, the proposed EPA standards are expected to avoid nearly 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions through 2055. It is incumbent upon the EPA to enact the proposed clean car standards without delay.” 

Air saturated with vehicle emission pollution disproportionately impacts environmental justice communities. It’s composed of fine particulate matter, one of the main pollutants produced by vehicles, and is responsible for 85,000 to 200,000 premature deaths per year in the United States. These overburdened environmental justice communities will see 40 percent of the IRA and the IIJA  climate investment resources designated to them through the Justice40 Initiative.

“Climate change is the existential threat that we all face. Yet not all are impacted equally. Too many people living in environmental justice communities disproportionately suffer more from its effects. The federal Justice40 Initiative and our own CLCPA have important provisions that will bring some justice to these communities. Strong EPA clean car standards will help millions breathe cleaner air and have better health outcomes,” said  Angelo Santabarbara, NY Assemblymember District 111, veteran, professional engineer, EOPA National Leadership Council. “With sustained state and federal IRA and IIJA investments many New Yorkers, local governments, and businesses have substantial incentives to make the transition to electric vehicles. New York is driving clean transportation forward to benefit all. However not everyone can afford an EV. That’s why the EPA must enact the strongest clean car emission standards as soon as possible.”

As of 2022, more than 70,000 rebates have been issued from the New York’s Drive Clean rebate program which allocates $2,000 to buy electric vehicles.

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), with its historic $369 billion investment in climate action, is ramping up clean energy production and is poised to cut economy-wide carbon emissions by up to 43 percent relative to 2005 levels, according to the first Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report on the 2022 climate and infrastructure law.

The Biden administration has done significant ground work to help the nation transition to EVs with the IRA and the IIJA. The IRA includes $1 billion for grants and rebates to state and local governments to expand the use of electric heavy-duty vehicles and a $7,500 consumer tax credit for new electric vehicles made in the United States. The IIJA provides $7.5 billion to help accelerate EV adoption by building a nationwide network of 500,000 EV charging stations. By 2030 a convenient national charging network that promises equitable access to rural drivers and overburdened and underserved communities will be created. With increased charging availability the stage is set for more EV use. Projections show that by 2030 there will be 26 to 48 million electric vehicles on the road.

While the EPA cannot control the number of electric vehicles sold by manufacturers, the Clean Air Act gives the agency authority to limit the average amount of pollution generated by each manufacturer’s fleet of vehicles.

Automakers have begun to set their own goals to transition to electric vehicles. General Motors, for example, aims to phase out the sale of all internal combustion vehicles by 2035.

“In Michigan we know our automakers are committed to ramping up production of zero-emission vehicles over the coming decade and will take full advantage of what the IRA and Infrastructure Law have to offer. They know EVs are the future. They know the federal government has their back, now it’s time they do the same for UAW workers. They’re skilled, dedicated, loyal workers who deserve contracts that reflect that reality.” said Gary Schlack, Councilmember, Allen Park City, Michigan, veteran. “What will help the production of more EVs is strong EPA national standards to lower tailpipe emissions. Strong clean car standards are a critical tool to reduce dangerous air pollution and protect our nation.”

EV battery manufacturing capacity will support the manufacturing of between 10 and 13 million all-electric vehicles per year, putting the U.S. in position to be a global EV competitor. Georgia, Kentucky, and Michigan are going to dominate electric vehicle battery manufacturing in the United States by 2030. These manufacturing facilities grow jobs. Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee will also be key players. Since President Biden signed the IRA into law, the private sector has committed more than $120 billion in domestic EV and battery investments.

“According to the White House the strategic expansion and development of the electric vehicle industry has the potential to create 150,000 new jobs. These jobs are not isolated to certain localities; more than 1,200 facilities in 48 states make components and materials that contribute to the manufacturing of clean cars,” said Derrick R. Wood, VA Mayor of Dumfries, Marine Veteran, EOPA National Leadership Council. “I urge the EPA to adopt the strongest clean car standards possible for our nation’s prosperity, health and national security.”

Reducing pollution from the tailpipes of cars and light duty vehicles with the strongest EPA federal emissions standards possible is a major component in the battle against the climate crisis that will protect public health, reduce harmful pollutants and help meet the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) goal to limit global warming to 1.5°C. To accomplish the IPCC metric greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025, and decline 43 percent by 2030 in order to stop fueling the extreme weather that will cause more mass migrations and climate conflicts around the globe.

State actions could end up being among the most consequential policy shifts toward clean cars the United States has ever seen, which sends an unmistakable signal to industry and the public about the direction in which the market is heading.

California took a big leap in the transition to electric vehicles when it adopted new rules that would prohibit the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035.  The California law will significantly reduce vehicle carbon dioxide emissions, as well as smog-forming nitrogen oxides over the next two decades.

“With heat waves, drought, apocalyptic fires and flooding, California is ground zero for the climate crisis in the West. Every year over 34,000 people die prematurely here, because of the dangerous particulates caused by fossil fuel emissions,” said Alex Walker-Griffin, CA Hercules Mayor, National Guard Reserve, EOPA CA Leadership Council Co-Chair. “The good news is that California is in the forefront of phasing out internal combustion engines and the harmful, planet-warming gases they emit. I urge the EPA to fulfill its statutory mandate to protect public health and welfare by taking action to further curb those emissions by following my state’s lead. Washington, D.C. and 16 states have already chosen Californian standards. Together they represent over 40 percent of the U.S. car market. Strong clean car standards are necessary to protect public health from the dangerous impacts of climate change, and for our national security.”

The California law establishes a credit system for automakers supplying California car dealerships and takes effect in 2026. In that year, 35 percent of all new cars an auto manufacturer sells to California dealerships would need to be either zero-emission, plug-in hybrid or hydrogen-powered vehicles. That would increase to 68 percent in 2030 and 100 percent by 2035.

The Clean Air Act uniquely gives California the ability to set stronger auto emissions standards than the federal government when granted a waiver from EPA. Under section 177 of the Clean Air Act, other eligible states may also adopt and enforce California’s vehicle emission standards.

As of August 2022, fourteen states have adopted both California’s zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) program as well as the low emissions vehicle (LEV) standards: Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. Delaware, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia are following California’s LEV standards but have not adopted the ZEV program. 

“One-quarter of Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation and more than a third of the nitrogen oxide emissions that contribute to harmful ozone smog come from highway vehicles,” said Joel Hicks, PA Carlisle Borough Councilmember, Navy veteran, EOPA National Leadership Council. “We are transitioning to EVs but we all know that will take time. Too many people need relief from the toxic air they continually have to breathe. Not only will strong EPA clean car standards deliver significant savings to drivers over the lives of their vehicles, they’ll save lives.”

While the EPA cannot control the number of electric vehicles sold by manufacturers, the Clean Air Act gives the agency authority to limit the average amount of pollution generated by each manufacturer’s fleet of vehicles.

The proposed standards set federal emission targets based on grams of carbon dioxide and other tailpipe pollution emitted per mile driven. The new rules would apply to cars and trucks for model years 2027 to 2032.

America has some chatching up to do. Other countries have already enacted regulations to completely phase out gasoline-powered vehicles. The European Union has passed vehicle emission standards that aim to end the sale of carbon dioxide-emitting cars by 2035. Canada and Britain have also proposed similar standards.