March 24, 2023

A central part of federal emissions regulations since the early 1970s has been the so-called California exemption. Of all 50 U.S. states, only California has the authority to set its own vehicle emissions regulations. No other state can do that, but other states can choose to follow California’s emissions standards instead of the less stringent federal standards if they so choose.

States that follow California’s lead in emissions standards tend to be more densely populated states such as New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. But Nevada and New Mexico also adopted them. Together, these states account for more than one-third of U.S. auto sales and about 40 percent of the U.S. population. It’s unclear whether all of these states will, like California, ban the sale of cars without charging ports or hydrogen tanks after 2035, but even if some do, it could represent a significant portion of the country.

It seems odd that one state – California – has so much power to set its own climate and emissions policies that it can even influence other states. The reasons for this go back more than 50 years. The core reason is that California has long had air quality problems for a number of reasons.

“They have so many cars, and those damn mountains,” said Richard Lazarus, a professor of environmental law at Harvard University.

In addition to sprawling cities and suburbs that encourage driving and mountains that trap air and pollution, parts of California have plenty of sunlight that stimulates chemical reactions that fuel pollution.

“I’m a third-generation Angelino, and I remember when I was a kid the sky was just…you could barely see across the street,” said Alan Marks, a Los Angeles attorney whose work involves renewable energy and transportation.

The history of the California Air Resources Board and the Environmental Protection Agency (the federal agency responsible for regulating emissions) rests on two men you might not think of as environmental pioneers, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. Today, both are remembered as staunch conservative Republicans, which in modern America usually means opposing environmental regulation.

Traffic jam on the Los Angeles freeway in 1970.

However, in 1967, then-California Governor Ronald Reagan signed the agreement to create the California Air Resources Board. The new agency was created by the California Air Health Agency and the California Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Board. By this time, California had enacted the nation’s first tailpipe emissions regulations.

Lazarus said these first regulations on vehicle emissions drove federal standards to discourage other states from following suit. There are fears that eventually there could be as many as 50 different emission standards, with a federal standard more preferred, the Clean Air Act of 1970.

“There were federal bills before the Clean Air Act, going back to the 1950s, that were all about air quality,” Marks said. “But a lot of what the federal government is doing is just looking at this.”

In 1970, President Richard Nixon also created the Environmental Protection Agency, which studies and manages various types of pollution, combining work done by various federal agencies before that. EPA oversees and enforces the Clean Air Act.

“The big question in the ’70s was, ‘Should we surrender to our surroundings, or should we make peace with nature and start paying for the damage we’ve done to air, land, and water?'” Nixon said in his State of the Union address that year. said in.

By then, California had laid the groundwork for its own rules, and continued the “California Waiver,” part of the federal statute that created this special exception for California. It’s been updated many times since then, and usually without a fuss. Lazurus said EPA administrators must have compelling reasons to deny waivers, and have tried, but none have been successful in the long run. California’s waiver may be a little awkward, but it prevents what is seen as a potential mess. At worst, automakers will have to comply with two sets of rules, but at least not with three, four or more different sets of rules.

At the time, Lazarus said, environmental issues did not cross clear partisan lines. There are Republicans and Democrats pushing for cleaner air and water. According to Lazarus, Nixon’s actions were in part designed to thwart environmentalists’ political threat to Yamaguchi, although he later changed course and fought some environmental regulations..

Another part of the Clean Air Act, passed in 1977, allows other states to improve their air quality by following California’s stricter emissions rules if they fail to meet federal standards. (They won’t allow themselves to make tougher rules.) So far, 17 other states have opted to comply with California’s emissions standards, at least in some ways. Collectively, they account for more than 35 percent of all new vehicle sales in the United States.

The auto industry has been able to function well within the current system, Marks said. It provides the stability originally sought through the creation of the Clean Air Act and California waivers.

“Manufacturers are very cooperative with California, trying to figure out how to meet the standard and what the standard should be,” he said.

During his tenure, President Donald Trump asked the court to strike down the California immunity. That attempt has failed, or at least not when Trump steps down in the 2020 election. The administration of President Joseph Biden abandoned that effort and renewed the waiver for California in March 2022.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *