California is Committed to the Clean Car Agreement

In a blog I just posted today, I asked the question: What will the new year bring for the US auto industry: gridlock or innovation?

Letters released yesterday provided a partial answer. Regrettably, the automakers may have turned toward gridlock.

In letters yesterday to Congressmen Issa and Upton, the auto industry launched its assault on California’s historic authority to regulate motor vehicle pollution. This is not surprising. California and its four decade old authority has long been a thorn in the side of the auto industry.

The Alliance letters makes the accusation that California has not lived up to its part of the National Program commitments. Specifically it claims that California “is not in the spirit of a collaborative effort to develop a single national program for fuel economy/GHG standards.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. California has lived by the letter and spirit of its commitments.

First, in its May 21, 2010 letter of commitment, California’s key agreement was to “work in partnership with EPA and NHTSA to develop a staff technical assessment to inform future rulemaking”. The Interim Joint Technical Assessment published last October demonstrates it has and is continuing to fulfill that commitment.

Second, California wisely did not commit in its letter to waiting for EPA and NHSTA before proposing its own standards. It very clearly stated in the letter its plans to continue to move forward with its process, independently but in coordination, with the federal process. Despite this, California has at least twice delayed adoption of its standard from September 2010 in order to ensure maximum coordination with the federal process.

Finally, California has consistently stated its commitment to the goal of a National Program. Again in the letter of commitment, CARB states “The goal, as with California’s model year 2009-2016 emission standards, is that compliance with new national standards after 2016 may serve to meet the new 2017-2025 model years California standards.”

California’s track record on acting in good faith is solid. California faithfully carried out every one of its commitments that was outlined in its May 18, 2009 letter of agreement to implement the first phase of the program for model years 2012 to 2016.  In a previous blog, I showed the timeline for California delivering on its commitments.

California’s goal is to achieve the maximum carbon pollution reductions possible. Maintaining its historic ability to set the bar is essential for reaching this goal. And as the first National Program agreement demonstrates, California’s goal of strong standards and the automakers goal of a national program are compatible.

The automakers goals are to weaken California’s resolve and thereby weaken the final standard. For the sake of the environment and our energy security, let’s hope they are not successful.