The Biden administration planned to unveil its new auto pollution regulations alongside labor union allies in Detroit. But after those allies learned of the proposal’s details, they balked at supporting the regulations publicly, forcing Biden to move the announcement to Washington, D.C.
President Joe Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency initially blamed the location change on “scheduling conflicts.” A Wednesday New York Times report, however, shows that the United Auto Workers—a labor union that endorsed Biden in 2020 and routinely spends millions of dollars supporting Democrats—forced the move. As the union and other auto industry leaders “learned the details of the proposed regulation,” the Times said, “some grew uneasy about publicly supporting it,” pushing the Biden administration to “rearrange its rollout of the proposal.” The event eventually took place Wednesday outside the EPA’s headquarters in D.C.
Biden’s proposed rule, which effectively forces automakers to sell electric cars through strict vehicle emission limits, has already prompted intense criticism from Republicans, with Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) arguing the regulation would lead to “higher prices and fewer choices.” But the United Auto Workers’ apparent dissatisfaction with the rule suggests that criticism could transcend party lines. The union praised Biden as a stable leader when it endorsed the Democrat in 2020, an election cycle that saw it funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Democratic National Committee and other liberal groups.
Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Michael Regan, acknowledged Wednesday that United Auto Workers leadership “expressed anxiety” over the regulations, which he said “could be amended to assuage those fears.” The union went on to release a statement pledging to “review the EPA’s proposals” and work with the Biden administration to achieve “standards that are good for workers and the environment.”
The union has expressed particular concern over auto industry job loss, which its leaders have warned will occur under the proposed rule. Electric cars include fewer components than their gas-powered counterparts and thus require considerably fewer workers to build.
“We’ve dealt with the loss of jobs before through technology, but when you talk about the speed of this, it’s hard to fathom that we won’t lose jobs,” United Auto Workers leader Mark DePaoli said Saturday.
Experts also say the regulations could cause supply chain issues, given that China holds an iron grip on the minerals required to build electric vehicle batteries. Regan during his Wednesday announcement dismissed concerns that the proposed rule would increase America’s reliance on China, saying, “We have to walk and chew gum at the same time.”
“This proposal doesn’t kick in until model year 2027, so we’ve got some years to ramp up,” Regan said. “We hope we can take advantage of that runway.”
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