For Immediate Release: Monday, April 26, 2021
President Biden Boosts New Mexico’s Clean Car Efforts
New Rule Would Reaffirm New Mexico’s Authority to Set Stronger Vehicle Emission Standards, Helping to Protect the Climate, Improve Public Health, and Save Drivers Money[SANTA FE, NM] — Today, the Biden Administration proposed to restore state authority to adopt stronger vehicle tailpipe pollution standards. The move will help Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham fulfill a pledge to adopt Clean Cars policy in New Mexico in 2021, and boost state efforts to address climate change and clean up the air. It also offers one potential path to reach 100 percent zero emission vehicles by 2035, as Governor Lujan Grisham called for in a letter to the Biden Administration delivered during Earth Week 2021.
Advocates for public health, climate preservation, consumer protection and environmental justice celebrated the Biden Administration’s move:
“President Biden is moving full speed ahead with Clean Car Standards, and that is great news for New Mexico,” said Travis Madsen, Transportation Program Director at Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. “The faster New Mexico moves to electrify cars and trucks, the bigger the benefits will be. Cleaning up passenger vehicles in line with the state climate strategy will save New Mexicans more than $20 billion through mid-century. The state should initiate a Clean Cars rulemaking without delay.”
“By standing up for the clean vehicle authority of states like New Mexico, President Biden is standing up for public health and innovation,” said Luke Tonachel, director of clean vehicles and fuels at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “The Lujan Grisham administration should take advantage of this momentum by finalizing a clean cars rule this year, and the Biden administration should act swiftly to reinstate the Obama-era tailpipe standards and set new rules that would put us on a path to sales of all zero-emitting vehicles by 2035.”
“Clean car standards are key to curbing climate change and reducing local air pollution, while saving New Mexicans money on fuel costs,” said Camilla Feibelman, director of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club. “With the Biden administration’s waiver announcement today, states will be returned a powerful tool to protect public health and act on climate. Now it’s up to state leaders to ensure New Mexico moves forward with strong state-level standards as soon as possible to help drive dealers to service our state with a wide variety of electric vehicles.”
The federal Clean Air Act allows states to set vehicle emission standards that are tougher than federal requirements, to address persistent air pollution problems. Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham pledged to adopt the Clean Cars policy during a nationally-recognized speech at Climate Week in September 2019.
The Governor said that New Mexico would adopt the policy by the end of 2020. The COVID pandemic interfered with the state’s plan, but the governor wrote in the opening pages of the 2020 New Mexico Climate Strategy that the state now plans to adopt Clean Cars standards this year, in 2021. The strategy says that: “NMED will hold initial informational public meetings on these regulations starting in spring 2021 and petition the Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) in July 2021 to hold a hearing on proposed rules later in 2021. If adopted, these standards will take effect in January 2023.” That would put New Mexico on a similar timeline as Nevada, which began a formal rulemaking process in December.
In early 2020, the Trump administration attempted to revoke state authority to adopt these standards. Shortly after, a coalition of states and other stakeholders, including New Mexico, challenged the decision in court.
Today’s proposal from the Biden Administration, when finalized, would resolve that uncertainty and give New Mexico a green light to implement Clean Car Standards. It also would clear a path for Washington State, Virginia, Minnesota, Nevada and potentially other states to join the 13 states and Washington D.C., who have already adopted the program.