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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

EPA is making its opening moves against California's plan to phase out sales of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035 — the latest front in the battle between the White House and the state over climate policy.

Driving the news: Via The Wall Street Journal, EPA boss Andrew Wheeler sent California Gov. Gavin Newsom a letter attacking the plan and arguing it would require EPA approval.

The letter Monday says there are "serious questions" about the plan's legality and that it may require a waiver from EPA, per Reuters' report on it.

Why it matters: California is the nation's largest auto market. Newsom's plan last week is the most aggressive U.S. move to curb carbon emissions from transportation and push electric vehicles.

  • Wheeler's letter underscores the stakes of the ongoing litigation between EPA and California over cars, as well as the outcome of the election, and even the Supreme Court makeup.
  • Last year the Trump administration revoked the state's special authority under the Clean Air Act to set its own tailpipe emissions rules that a number of other states may adopt.

Yes, but: The fight over California's plan is in its early stages. Newsom's executive order last week is only a first step. State regulators' completion of final rules to actually implement it is likely years away.

The intrigue: It's a legal fight, but also a PR battle, with Wheeler's letter taking aim at California's recent rolling blackouts.

  • The states' power woes raise the question of "how you expect to run an electric car fleet that will come with significant increases in electricity demand, when you can’t even keep the lights on today," it states.
  • Newsom spokesman Jesse Melgar, in a statement to several outlets, said the Trump administration is trying to "drive this country off a climate cliff."
  • “We aren’t going to back down from protecting our kids’ health and the air they breathe," he said.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jul 2, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Why going electric makes sense for ride-hailing

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Deploying electric vehicles instead of gasoline-powered models for services like Uber and Lyft provides outsized climate benefits compared to emissions cuts from electric vehicles for only personal use, per a peer-reviewed study in Nature Energy.

Why it matters: The analysis, based on California data, follows explosive growth in ride-hailing in recent years — and evidence that it's cannibalizing more climate-friendly mass transit.

Clean trucks are paving the road to the electric vehicle era

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The electric vehicle revolution is underway, led by the un-sexiest of plug-in models: the commercial truck.

Why it matters: Growing demand for cleaner trucks means 2021 will be a pivotal year for electric vehicles — just not the kind you might have expected.

2 hours ago - World

Biden seeks to reboot U.S. sanctions policy

Sanctions increased under Obama and dramatically under Trump. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Biden administration is rethinking the U.S. approach to sanctions after four years of Donald Trump imposing and escalating them.

The big picture: Sanctions are among the most powerful tools the U.S. has to influence its adversaries’ behavior without using force. But they frequently fail to bring down regimes or moderate their behavior, and they can increase the suffering of civilians and resentment of the U.S.