Watershed Air Pollution Measure Passes California Assembly Today, Puts State in the Driver's Seat in Fight Against Global Warming

Clean Car Bill Will Unleash New Technologies in Cars & Trucks of All Sizes

SACRAMENTO, CA (July 1, 2002) -- The California Legislature this evening passed legislation striking a watershed blow in the fight against global warming, reaffirming the state's worldwide leadership in pollution safeguards and clean vehicle technologies. Assembly Bill 1493 requires automakers for the first time to limit carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants from new cars and light trucks. It also will reduce other pollutants, and save consumers money at the gas pump.

The measure is the first of its kind anywhere in the world. It cleared the Assembly this evening by a vote of 41-30. The State Senate passed the bill on Saturday. It now goes to Gov. Gray Davis for signature.

"This law is a giant leap in the fight for cleaner cars. It will put us on the road to a cooler, safer climate for the people of California," said Ann Notthoff, California Advocacy Director for NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council), a sponsor of the bill. "Supporters in the legislature deserve a round of applause for their vision and courage."

The bill by Assemblymember Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) is among the most important environmental bills in Sacramento this year. It is a major victory for Californians over a multi-million dollar campaign by automakers to defeat the measure.

Three quarters of Californians think the state should be doing more to address global warming, and 70 percent support new laws to cut global warming pollution from autos, according to a recent poll by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin and Associates.

In June the Bush administration released a startling report describing the dangerous and costly effects of global warming in the U.S., but offered not a single solution.

"AB 1493 shows there are actions we can take right now to beat global warming," Notthoff said.

Cars and light trucks are responsible for 40 percent of California's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which form a heat-trapping blanket in the atmosphere. Just last month, researchers at UC-Santa Cruz published a detailed analysis outlining the severe threat of global warming to the state's water supply and coastal areas.

"Automakers have been fighting rules requiring cleaner, safer cars for 40 years. But when the time comes to deliver the technology, they've succeeded every time," Notthoff said. "AB 1493 sends a clear message to Detroit that that it's time to step up to the plate."

Common Sense Approach to Pollution Clean-Up
AB 1493 requires the Air Resources Board to develop standards for carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants by the end of 2005 that would take effect for new cars starting in model year 2009.

The bill explicitly states that the agency cannot impose taxes or restrict speed limits, vehicle size, or other consumer driving choices. It also gives automakers flexibility in meeting emissions targets.

Like California's other pollution control innovations, the bill will spur technological advances in Detroit and other automotive capitals. Cost-effective technologies are already available that would reduce CO2 and other global warming pollutants from cars and light trucks of all sizes. Advances in engine and transmission design, as well as improved aerodynamics and better tires all offer big opportunities.

Ford, GM and DaimlerChrysler have all announced plans to produce low CO2, fuel-efficient hybrid SUVs within the next few years. AB 1493 would accelerate the process, making cleaner solutions available sooner for more buyers across a broader range of vehicles.

Broad Support for an Innovative Bill
The global warming pollution bill has broad support from leading figures in California's high technology industry. It is a top priority for the American Lung Association of California and nearly all the state's major environmental organizations. Supporters also include the California Teachers Association, California Nurses Association and the California Professional Firefighters.

Local government support comes from the cities of Los Angeles, San Jose, San Diego and San Francisco, as well as the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and water management authorities in Marin County, Santa Clara County and the East Bay. U.S. Senators Feinstein and Boxer and a majority of the state's House delegation also back the bill. The bill has been endorsed by major state newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News.

Car Makers Cry Wolf
The car industry opposes carbon dioxide limits, continuing their long history of protest whenever new health and safety challenges arise. But history has repeatedly proven them wrong: Despite auto industry protests, California has cut smog-forming pollution from passenger vehicles by over 90 percent, without restricting vehicle choice or reducing sales (indeed SUV sales are at an all time high).

The National Academy of Sciences, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, U.S. Energy Department and other independent experts around the country agree that CO2 pollution can be reduced dramatically without compromising safety, performance or the consumer's choice of cars, minivans or SUVs.

Global Warming Consequences in California
Carbon build-up from man-made pollution is causing global temperatures to rise faster in recent decades than at any time in history. Scientists predict that unless global warming emissions are reduced, average U.S. temperatures will be 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit higher by the end of the century.

That means Californians and their children face real threats if we don't get a handle on global warming emissions soon. Hotter temperatures increase smog formation, undercutting progress on cleaner air. Warming already appears to be disrupting natural cycles that provide water for our cities, farms and wildlife, as well as hydroelectric power to keep our lights on and businesses humming. Drought and pest outbreaks pose threats to agriculture. California coastlines will face rising sea levels and more severe storms, and experts predict wildfires could double due to dryer vegetation.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Related NRDC Pages
California's Clean Car Legislation