Automakers that sell cars in California — the state has the largest passenger and commercial vehicle fleet in the nation — may soon face stricter pollution limits than the rest of the US.
Today the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is holding a public meeting about the midterm review of the state’s Advanced Clean Cars Program, which limits smog-forming emissions and other air pollutants from cars and passenger trucks.
Under the Clean Air Act, California can set vehicle emission standards that are more stringent than federal standards.
CARB worked with the EPA and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to develop standards in conjunction with the national Clean Car standards for cars from model years 2017 to 2025. Each agency also committed to conducting a midterm review for the later year standards (for cars in model years 2022 to 2025).
Last week the Trump administration agreed to revisit the federal midterm review as well as the Obama administration’s rule that finalized standards to increase fuel economy to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by model year 2025.
“By restarting this review, analysis rather than politics will produce a final decision consistent with the process we all agreed to under ‘One National Program’ for GHG and fuel economy standards,” said Mitch Bainwol, Auto Alliance president and CEO in a statement. “President Trump agreed, and now we will get back to work with EPA, NHTSA, CARB and other stakeholders in carefully determining how we can improve mileage and reduce carbon emissions while preserving vehicle safety, auto jobs and affordable new cars and trucks.”
CARB released its Advanced Clean Cars Midterm Review Report on Jan. 18 and concluded that the current standards for cars in model years 2022-2025 should stay as adopted. Today CARB board members will vote on this recommendation.
Environmental groups want the state board to adopt the recommendations of the midterm review.
In its testimony, Environmental Defense Fund said that technologies have been developed and marketed more quickly and cost-effectively than anticipated in 2012 and urged the board to reaffirm California’s commitment to the current standards for model years 2022 to 2025. The group argued that the standards are vital to limiting pollution from cars and trucks — more than 13 percent of all highway vehicles are registered in California — that is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and lung cancer and contributes to smog and climate change.
Sustainable business advocacy group Ceres also spoke at the hearing on behalf of US businesses, representing over $400 billion in annual revenue, that support clean car standards in 13 states. The “clean car states” include California and the 12 states that have adopted California’s standards, as well as DC. These states together represent over a third of the US new car market and almost 6 million annual car sales.
In a letter to CARB, the Ceres group Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP), a coalition of leading businesses, including Gap, General Mills, Ikea, Levi Strauss & Co., Nike, Unilever and others, said their support for clean car standards is “firmly grounded in economic reality.”
The BICEP letter expresses support for the Zero Emission Vehicle Program, stating that, “because electric vehicles run on cleaner energy than petroleum and produce zero tail pipe emissions, the transition to fleet electrification will also result in significant public health benefits and cost savings.”
Global Automakers, a trade group that represent the US divisions of 12 motor vehicle manufacturers, also submitted comments on California’s clean car midterm review urging CARB to work with the federal agencies to coordinate national fuel efficiency standards.
“Given that the federal Midterm Evaluation is still ongoing, Global Automakers recommends that CARB continue collaboration with EPA and NHTSA to address outstanding concerns regarding the substance of the GHG Midterm Review, such as consumer acceptance, modeling deficiencies, and how increased harmonization and programmatic flexibilities will ease compliance burdens while maintaining the goals of the One National Program,” Global Automakers said.
Editor’s Note: On Friday afternoon, after this story was originally published, the California Air Resources Board voted unanimously to continue with the vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards and zero-emission vehicle program for cars and light trucks sold in California through 2025.