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Assembly OKs controversial car CO2 emissions bill

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  • 1/31 Contra Costa Times
    Published Thursday, January 31, 2002, in the Contra Costa Times Assembly OKs auto emissions legislation Carmakers worry that new carbon dioxide rules will
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2002
      Published Thursday, January 31, 2002, in the Contra Costa Times

      Assembly OKs auto emissions legislation
      Carmakers worry that new carbon dioxide rules will hamper them

      By Andrew LaMar
      Contra Costa Times

      SACRAMENTO -- California, a pioneer in pushing air pollution control
      and fuel-efficiency technologies, moved to the vanguard of the debate
      on global warming Wednesday by pursuing reductions in new vehicles'
      carbon dioxide emissions.

      The proposed regulation, which would be developed by the state Air
      Resources Board during the next two years and could go into effect in
      2005, passed the Assembly 42-24 and is not expected to encounter
      major opposition in the Senate or from Gov. Gray Davis.

      The bill "is a precedent-setting proposal that puts California in the
      lead on reducing the economic and environmental threats posed by
      global climate changing," said Bob Epstein, a member of the Silicon
      Valley business group Environmental Entrepreneurs that lobbied for
      the measure.

      The legislation is one of the most controversial bills lawmakers
      voted on this week, as they rushed to meet a deadline to move
      measures leftover from last year.

      A coalition of business interests spearheaded by the auto industry
      lobbied hard to kill the bill, which they said would give regulators
      open-ended authority to issue new emission standards that would
      hamper the auto industry and do little to prevent global warming.

      "Popular resistance and cost to society are not factored in," said
      Phil Isenberg, a lobbyist for the Alliance of Automobile
      Manufacturers. "Car manufacturers see a regulator given unlimited
      discretion and a mandate to impose (new rules) without consequences."

      Isenberg said automakers cannot assess the impact without knowing
      more about how the new order would be crafted. The legislation does
      not specify emissions targets to meet but simply directs the state to
      come up with the maximum feasible reduction, and manufacturers worry
      that will translate into impractical mandates for greater fuel
      efficiency or more vehicles powered by batteries or alternative fuel.

      Opponents to the measure also argued that carbon dioxide, unlike
      other air pollutants, does not directly hurt public health and the
      policy question of how to limit or prevent global warming should be
      handled on a national or international scale.

      "This bill represents the worst form of environmental extremism,"
      said Assembly GOP leader Dave Cox of Fair Oaks. The measure would
      give "unelected bureaucrats" wide authority that is likely to force
      certain vehicles off the roads and send some Californians to other
      states, he added.

      But environmentalists, who made the bill one of their top legislative
      priorities for the year, praised the Assembly's vote and said
      California could spur other states and eventually the federal
      government to limit carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gas

      "California must take the lead in solving climate change," said Craig
      Noble, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "First
      of all, we are part of the problem, and second of all, the White
      House and Congress have dropped the ball on this one."

      Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, who authored the bill,
      said something must be done to slow global warming. The increasing
      temperatures endanger the 1,100 miles of California's coastline and
      the state's water supply because much of it relies on snow pack, she

      The Golden State has 22.6 million cars and light trucks that generate
      142 million tons of carbon dioxide in one year, according to a draft
      of a California Energy Commission report currently being prepared.

      Several studies link carbon dioxide to global warming, though some
      scientists still question whether the phenomenon is actually
      occurring and, if so, to what extent. Environmentalists, however,
      scoff at the skeptics and like to cite the example of the 1990s,
      which was the warmest decade worldwide in 140 years of recorded

      "The linkages are clear. The only question is: Will anyone take
      action?" asked Roland Hwang, a senior policy analyst with the NRDC.

      To assuage the opposing auto industry and others, Pavley said she
      would amend her bill while it's under consideration in the Senate to
      include specific standards for lowering carbon dioxide emissions. She
      also said she's likely to expand the bill to cover all greenhouse

      "It's a work in progress. The goal is defendable," Pavley said. "How
      we get there in a reasonable, cost-effective way is what needs to be

      Andrew LaMar covers state government. Reach him at 916-441-2101 or
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