About-face: GM agrees to Calif. tailpipe emissions rule

By Arianna Skibell | 01/10/2022 01:21 PM EST

General Motors yesterday announced it will recognize California’s authority to set vehicle emissions standards under the Clean Air Act.

 Exhaust flows out of the tailpipe of a vehicle

Exhaust flows out of the tailpipe of a vehicle. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

General Motors Co. yesterday announced it will recognize California’s authority to set vehicle emissions standards under the Clean Air Act, a move that makes the company now eligible for fleet purchases by the Golden State.

The announcement marks a reversal for the company, which previously sided with the Trump administration’s stance against the state’s authority to set its own tailpipe standards.

In a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), the auto giant said it will meet the California Air Resources Board’s emissions reduction targets and is "committed to complying with California’s regulations."


“We believe everyone should have access to affordable, long-range electric vehicle options, and we are committed to working in collaboration with California to achieve an equitable transportation future,” Omar Vargas, GM vice president and head of Global Public Policy, said in a statement. “We’re all in on putting everybody in an EV.”

The announcement means GM now qualifies for California government fleet purchases, including EVs, the company said in a press release. Under the previous administration, GM supported a Trump-era policy that prevented California from setting tougher emission standards than the federal government. The rule also prevented more than a dozen other states from regulating auto emissions more aggressively (Greenwire, Nov. 10, 2021).

Because of GM’s support for the Trump policy, Newsom said the state would not buy any GM vehicles for its government fleets. The ban also applied to the other companies that supported the Trump rule. Newsom is now prepared to revoke his ban for GM.

"GM is joining California in our fight for clean air and emission reduction as part of the company’s pursuit of a zero-emissions future,” he said in a statement. “This agreement will help accelerate California’s nation-leading commitment to tackling the climate crisis. We welcome GM in our clean vehicle revolution."

The Biden administration is also working to revoke the Trump-era policy (Greenwire, Dec. 22, 2021).

GM is one of many car companies preparing to throw their weight behind the transition to EVs to fight climate change. Transportation is the single-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country.

The company has announced plans to eliminate emissions from its new light-duty vehicles by 2035 and dramatically boost spending on EVs, along with autonomous vehicles, through 2025.

The Biden administration has set a target that half of all new vehicles be electric or plug-in hybrid by 2030. California has set a more aggressive goal to ban the sale of gasoline-powered passenger vehicles starting in 2035.