Assembly OKs controversial car CO2 emissions bill
- 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 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