Governor Newsom Orders 100 Percent of New Car Sales to be Zero-Emission by 2035

Executive Order N-79-20 (September 23, 2020)

Environmental Alert (October 5, 2020)

Governor Newsom recently issued Executive Order N-79-20, which sets aggressive goals for California to eliminate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the transportation sector (the State’s largest source of emissions) and achieve carbon neutrality. The Order comes in response to the climate crisis and the Governor being witness to yet another significant wildfire season, which are “impacting California in unprecedented ways, and affecting the health and safety of too many Californians.”

Amidst this backdrop, the Executive Order sets a goal that 100 percent of in-state sales of new cars and trucks be zero-emission by 2035. The Order identifies similar goals for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (2045), drayage trucks (2035), and off-road vehicles (2035).

To achieve these goals, the Executive Order includes directives for multiple state agencies, such as (but not limited to) those that follow:
  • The California Air Resources Board is directed to develop and propose regulations requiring increasing volumes of new zero-emission sales in the State for passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses.
  • The California Air Resources Board and other regulatory agencies are directed to use their authority to accelerate the deployment of affordable fueling and charging options for zero emissions vehicles in ways that serve all communities, and particularly low-income and disadvantaged communities. The California Energy Commission relatedly shall update its biennial statewide assessment of zero-emission vehicle infrastructure to support the levels of electric vehicle penetration required by the Order.
  • The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development is directed to develop a Zero Emissions Vehicle Market Development Strategy by January 31, 2021 to ensure coordinated and expeditious implementation of the policies, programs and regulations necessary to achieve the Order’s goals and directives.
  • The State Transportation Agency, in coordination with the Department of Transportation and the California Transportation Commission, is directed to identify near term actions and investment strategies to improve clean transportation, including initiatives supporting bicycle, pedestrian, and micro-mobility options.
The Executive Order also declares that the State must work towards ending the issuance of new hydraulic fracturing permits by 2024. The Order relatedly tasks multiple state agencies “to manage and expedite the responsible closure and remediation of former oil extraction sites as the State transitions to a carbon-neutral economy.” The Department of Conservation’s Geologic Energy Management Division is instructed to propose “a significantly strengthened, stringent, science-based health and safety draft rule that protects communities and workers from the impacts of oil extraction activities” by December 31, 2020. 

Overall, the Executive Order is an effort to bring the State of California closer to carbon neutrality. To do this, the Order places significant responsibilities on state agencies to take targeted actions to reduce the State’s GHG emissions. If the regulatory paradigm necessary to achieve the goals of the Executive Order is fully implemented, the GHG emissions streams for proposed land use development should be reduced over time. And, theoretically, such reductions in vehicle fleet emission factors should beneficially alleviate some of the pressures on land use developers to create their own “solution” to tailpipe GHG emissions.

[This alert does not constitute legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is created by viewing or responding to this alert.  Legal counsel should be sought for answers to specific legal questions.]