California commits to cleaner cars in break with Trump administration

By Patrick Reilly, Christian Science Monitor.

MARCH 25, 2017 —On Friday, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted to finalize new vehicle emissions rules for the model years 2022-2025.

Eight years from now, new cars and trucks sold in the Golden State will be required to have an average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon. The CARB rules will also mean more “zero emission vehicles” powered by batteries and fuel cells, and tough new standards on particulate matter pollution.

The CARB didn’t come up with these guidelines on the spot. The Obama administration had sought to apply them nationally, but President Trump’s administration put them back under review. Now, environmentalists are looking to California to keep the higher emission standards from being tossed out.

“The public is bearing a huge cost” from vehicle emissions, said Bonnie Holmes-Gen of the American Lung Association of California at Friday’s meeting. “I urge California to keep us on track.”

If California succeeds, other states may follow. The sheer size of California’s market, and a unique waiver from the Clean Air Act, give it an outsize role in determining what comes out of your car's tailpipe. With this vote, it’s trying to raise those standards at the same moment when the feds and automakers want them eased.