Washington reinstates a key pollution-fighting tool. What’s next for Pa.? | Friday Morning Coffee

The move by the EPA gives states such as Pennsylvania the latitude to adopt rules stronger than federal law

March 11, 2022 7:12 am

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Environmentalists are hailing the news this week that the Biden administration had moved to reinstate a key tool that states use to fight air pollution, calling it an important step toward cleaning up the environment.

On Wednesday, the federal regulatory agency announced it was restoring a waiver, under the Clean Air Act, that allowed the state of California to enact stricter emissions standards than those under current federal law.

The move is a repudiation of a move by the former Trump administration, which had lifted the waiver, arguing it would put pressure on automakers to ramp up production of electric vehicles, according to the Sacramento Bee.

That has turned out not to be an issue.

Sales of electric vehicle doubled worldwide in 2021, as consumers turned toward clean vehicles, according to Marketplace. Sales have exploded despite microchip shortages and other supply chain issues, Marketplace reported.

The EPA’s announcement this week gives states such as Pennsylvania, which contend with their own air pollution problems, the option to adopt the stronger California rules, David Masur, the executive director of the Philadelphia-based advocacy group, PennEnvironment, said in a statement.

“With millions of Pennsylvanians living in places where it’s often considered unsafe to breathe the air, [the EPA’s] decision will loom large in our efforts to ensure cleaner air for the state’s residents, and attack climate pollution head-on,” Masur said.

“The decision is a reminder that by putting the pedal to the metal in promoting the transition to clean vehicles, we can dramatically reduce Pennsylvania’s — and the nation’s — air pollution and climate pollution,” Masur continued. “The Trump administration blocked the states from taking action, which was a reckless decision that threatened public health.”

(Image via Pittsburgh City Paper)

Emma Horst-Martz, of PennPIRG, echoed that sentiment, saying in a statement that “transportation pollution is the nation’s largest source of global warming emissions, and it puts the health of all Pennsylvanians at risk.

“Letting states like ours set vehicle emission standards that support our clean air and climate goals is not only the right thing to do, but it will also help bolster the market for cleaner cars, benefiting all Pennsylvanians,” Horst-Martz said.

The Biden administration has made the transition to electric vehicles one of the linchpins of the new bipartisan infrastructure law. Pennsylvania is line to receive some $171.5 million under the law to help build out its electric vehicle charging infrastructure, the Capital-Star previously reported.

In a statement, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell told the Capital-Star that the state appreciated the administration’s action. But he did not indicate whether the environmental regulatory agency intended to walk through the door Washington had opened for it.

“California has been a model for reducing dangerous air pollution from car exhaust, and this provides another tool for states like Pennsylvania to better protect residents,” McDonnell said.”We’re grateful that the Biden administration is committed to protecting our environment and prioritizing this critical global issue.”

The Pennsylvania Judicial Center in Harrisburg (Capital-Star file)

Our Stuff.
Marley Parish leads our coverage this morning with this key breakdown of closing arguments in Pennsylvania’s landmark school funding lawsuit, which wrapped up in Commonwealth Court on Thursday.

President Joe Biden heads to Philadelphia today, where he’s set to address U.S. House Democrats who are gathering to plot their strategy for the 2022 midterms, I report.

And we have a whole suite of coverage from our crackerjack Washington Bureau:

On Thursday, Congress was close to clearing a massive government funding package that includes billions in aid to Ukraine, but Democrats and Republicans remain locked in a stalemate over additional pandemic relief, Capital-Star Washington Reporter Jennifer Shutt reports.

Speaking of which … 

Vulnerable lawmakers across the country are set to rake in federal cash for home-state projects after a major spending bill included the first round of earmarks in more than a decade, Shutt and Washington Reporter Jacob Fischler write.

And …

U.S. Senate Republicans went on the attack against President Joe Biden on Thursday for rising energy costs and regulations in the wake of a new report on inflation, Washington Reporter Ariana Figueroa writes. The attacks, I’ll note, came after Biden heeded GOP requests to stop importing Russian energy, warning that energy costs were going to rise.

En Estrella-Capital: El Presidente Joe Biden declara la prohibición estadounidense al petróleo Ruso, advierte sobre aumentos en el precio de la gasolina. Y ‘Pensilvania está con Ucrania.’ El gobernador Tom Wolf le pide a la Legislatura que apoye a los refugiados y se retiren de Rusia.

On our Commentary Page this morning: Putin’s war in Ukraine is a reminder: Maybe we’re not as divided as we thinkRob Schofield, of our sibling site, North Carolina Policy Watch, writes. The GOP has turned into the ‘gallows party,’ Quentin Young, of our sibling site, Colorado Newsline argues.

Philadelphia City Hall (Image via

The Philadelphia Parking Authority abruptly fired its executive director, Scott Petri, a former Republican state lawmaker from Bucks County, the Inquirer reports.

A Pittsburgh-based steelmaker will end its relationship with a Russian company by year’s end, the Tribune-Review reports.

You know the big names — here’s the undercard for governor and U.S. Senate in 2022, from PennLive.

A Ukrainian family has found shelter in Lancaster County after fleeing their homelandLancasterOnline reports.

The York Daily Record has some money-saving tips as gas prices continue to rise.

U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-7th Districttalked gas prices and Ukraine at a town hall, the Morning Call reports.

The Citizens’ Voice talks to local farmers about how they’re weathering rising fuel prices.

A play being staged in Philadelphia shows the toll of gun violence through the eyes of teenagers, WHYY-FM reports.

PennDOT has picked the construction company for its bridge-tolling project, the Associated Press reports (via WITF-FM) reports.

As COVID-19 cases wane, flu cases are on the rise in Erie CountyGoErie reports.

Many Medicaid recipients could lose their coverage as the pandemic winds down, reports.

The verdict is in: An election law rewrite backed by Texas Republicans kept thousands of otherwise eligible voters from casting their ballots in the state’s recent primary, Talking Points Memo reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
The desk is clear. Enjoy the silence.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
Helping you plan your weekend, state House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton holds a Saturday event in Hershey at 10 a.m. Admission runs $500 to $5,000.

Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept
Super-best wishes go out this morning to Tim Mack, in the office of U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-4th District, who celebrates today.

Heavy Rotation
And for the birthday boy (and me, and whoever else needs it) here’s an enormous playlist of UK grime classics to power you through this final day of the working week.

Friday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
In a match-up between the NHL’s two best teams, the Carolina Hurricanes rallied late to beat the Colorado Avalanche 2-0 on Thursday night. Carolina’s Antti Raanta made 36 saves as the ‘Canes won their third straight game, and become the first team to shut out the Avs this season, reports. Ethan Bear and Sebastian Aho had a goal apiece in the third period to seal the win.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.