California Energy Companies Take Their Fight Against Electric Cars to the Supreme Court

By: Stephanie Bontorin | Last updated: Jul 08, 2024

California has an ambitious target of selling electric vehicles exclusively in 2030 to lower greenhouse gas emissions. However, some EV industry opponents have taken their fight to the US Supreme Court in hopes of boosting natural gas sales.

The state has been pushing electric vehicle sales for the past few years in a last-ditch attempt to fight climate change, as temperatures soar and wildfires worsen every year.

What's the Issue?

Energy companies and other industries that oppose California’s strict environmental rules are the opponents of the EV industry.

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The pavement at an EV charging station showing icons of charing cars

Source: Freepik

California is the only state with more stringent vehicle emissions standards than the federal standard. Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers a limited number of waivers to waive the standards, energy companies want to find easier ways to continue doing business in the western state.

Exceptions Are Often Allowed in California

For several reasons, the EPA has often made exceptions for the emissions standards in California.

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A view of downtown Los Angeles with heavy smog above

Source: Andreas Strandman/Unsplash

Because the state is the nation’s most populous, it has unique issues with geography, too many vehicles, and chronic smog problems to help restrict some of the issues.

Information on the Lawsuit Filed

On Tuesday, Valero Energy Corp’s Diamond Alternative Energy and other plaintiffs filed a lawsuit with the US Supreme Court.

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Paperwork for a lawsuit under a judge’s gavel

Source: Freepik

The group claims that when the EPA grants waivers for California’s Advanced Clean Car program for cars built between 2015 to 2025, it enabled the state of California to become a “quasi-federal regulator on global climate change.”

Plaintiffs Will Rely on Virginia's Measures on EVs

In the past month, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that his state would no longer attempt to match California’s initiative to ensure that all new cars sold after 2035 are electric.

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A man with grey hair and a blue suit gives a thumbs up to the camera

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Along with citing the governor’s decision, the plaintiffs now rely on the Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling in West Virginia v. EPA. The decision states that explicit congressional authorization must be given for regulators to take consequential actions on issues of vast economic, political, and social impact.

Gov. Gavin Newsom Wants to Lead in Climate Change Measures

California Governor Gavin Newsom intends to make his state a leader in fighting climate change and global warming by targeting transportation emissions.

A man wearing aviator sun glasses and a white linnen shirt stands in front of a large mountain

Source: @CaliforniaGlobe/X

In California, car emissions account for a quarter of all emissions. This figure does not include pollution emitted from car manufacturing in the state.

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Oil Companies Are Feeling the Pinch

Although 70% of cars on the road are still gas-powered, many fossil fuel companies are beginning to feel the sting of low sales.

A photograph of several oil drills at sunset

Source: Freepik

Oil companies and farming groups often contribute to the production of ethanol and tailpipe emissions. As well, several trucking firms and businesses have joined the fight to stop California’s rules on slashing greenhouse gas emissions, which are often pumped into the environment by long-distance semi-trucks.

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Biden Has Plans to Increase Electric Trucks

One of the main initiatives of President Biden’s tenure has been to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and push new green energy rules.

A large semi truck with a blue front and a white trailer sits in an empty parking lot against a wide range of mountains with a blue sky above

Source: Sander Yigin/Unsplash

His administration has recently been cracking down on air pollution standards and has finally hit the trucking industry. The measures finalized on March 29 will vastly increase the amount of electric trucks on the road, a move that has been largely unpopular with trucking and logistics companies.

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Plaintiffs Say California is Reaching

The lawsuit filed against California states that the state does not meet the requirement for provisions that would justify a waiver.

Supreme Court exterior with clouds overhead

Unsplash user Adam Michael Szuscik

Since “Climate change is not an ‘extraordinary’ condition within California” because it isn’t a local issue, they say that the state does not need its own emissions standards to meet a global climate change level.

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Does Cutting Down on Gas Cars Help the Environment?

Although it takes considerable resources to manufacture both electric and gas cars, EVs produce zero emissions when driving, which is a net positive for the environment.

An electric vehicle charging at a charging station

Source: Freepik

In California, which has ongoing smog and pollution issues, electric cars have reduced the amount of air pollution by a considerable amount.

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Will California Be Allowed to Set Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards?

The question now looms of whether California will be allowed to set the standard for greenhouse gas emissions for itself and other states.

A Smokestack Emission of an Industrial Exhaust Pipes

Source: Chris LeBoutillier/Pexels

The parties suing the state think it doesn’t deserve this much power, especially since California has the EPA for a waiver in its plan to end gasoline-powered vehicle sales by 2035.

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The Waiver Would Hurt the Gas Industry

The lawsuit claims that the “waiver and authority claimed here are the key parts of a coordinated agency strategy to convert the Nation from liquid-fuel-powered vehicles to electric vehicles,” which would hurt demand for petroleum fuels and biofuels.

An E-Z Trip gas station surrounded by palm trees. A white van is also pictured

Source: motyame/Unsplash

Other plaintiffs involved in the case include American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, the Kansas Corn Growers Association and the National Association of Convenience Stores.

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