Mary Nichols on ‘fighting with the administration’

Source: Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, March 15, 2019

Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, today criticized the Trump administration for ending negotiations with the state over its rollback of Obama-era clean car rules.

“We at CARB are spending way too much of our time fighting with the administration in Washington about the future of standards for existing vehicles,” Nichols said at an event in San Diego hosted by Veloz, a group that advocates for accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles.

Instead, the state should be able to spend its time promoting electric vehicles and building out more charging infrastructure to avert the worst impacts of climate change, she said.

Nichols’ comments came after the White House announced last month it was ending talks with California over its rollback of Obama-era greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for vehicles, portending a lengthy legal battle (Greenwire, Feb. 21).

The CARB chairwoman, who wore green in honor of her nickname, the “queen of green,” also took the opportunity to criticize President Trump and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler for their stances on climate change. The president has called climate change a “hoax,” while Wheeler said recently that he did not think global warming was an “existential threat.”

“We are getting some blowback at the national level from the head of EPA and even from the president about whether we should be concerned about things like rising sea levels,” Nichols said.

She went on to lament the fact that Trump and some conservative lawmakers are seeking to kill the federal tax credit for electric vehicles — something the oil industry has been lobbying for (Climatewire, March 4).

Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget request, released earlier this week, projected that killing the EV tax credit would shave off $2.5 billion from the national deficit (E&E News PM, March 11).

“It’s true that we’re facing the potential loss of important tools like the tax credit for EVs,” Nichols said. “But at the same time, there actually are increasing numbers of representatives of both parties in the Congress who are trying to come together and search for solutions. I hope they do it fast because we don’t have a lot of time for incrementalism.”

She added, “There is a significant backlash campaign to try to discredit the value of electric cars that is funded by those who have a vested interest in the status quo of internal combustion engines and who will cling to that technology for as long as they can.”

Nichols spoke for around 25 minutes at the event, which included a conference call for reporters. She did not take any questions.