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California global warming bill signed into law by Governor Davis

23 July 2002

California Governor Gray Davis has signed Assembly Bill 1493, a legislation to combat global warming through the control of greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, recently adopted by the state legislature. Once signed by the Governor, the bill becomes a final California law.

“This is the first law in America to substantively address the greatest environmental challenge of the 21st century,” Gov. Davis said. “In time, every state—and hopefully every country—will act to protect future generations from the threat of global warming. For California, that time is now.”

Bill 1493 requires the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to develop greenhouse gas emission standards for light-duty vehicles in model year 2009 and beyond. The standards will apply to automakers’ fleet averages, rather than each individual vehicle, and carmakers will be able to partially achieve the standards by reducing pollution from non-auto sources (e.g. factories, etc.). The most common greenhouse gas and the prime target of the new regulation is carbon dioxide (CO2). Most of California’s CO2 comes from transportation and almost 40% is from passenger vehicles.

The bill has been strongly opposed by carmakers, auto workers, and consumers who favor large vehicles. The California car market amounts to over 2 million vehicles per year, about 50% of them being large SUVs, minivans, and light trucks. Since CO2 emissions are controlled through improved fuel economy, the bill is likely to have a limiting effect on the sales and use of the largest passenger vehicles in California.

The bill was adopted after months of heated political battles. The last version, which finally passed by a narrow margin in the legislature, includes explicit restrictions that prohibit the ARB from imposing additional fees or taxes on vehicles and fuels, from banning the sale of SUVs or other vehicle categories, from imposing vehicle weight restrictions, speed limits, or limits on vehicle miles traveled.

In response to the signing of the bill, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers announced it will challenge the new law in court. The legislation will be challenged on the grounds that it represents an attempt to develop fuel economy standards by the State. Federal laws prohibit states, including California, from adopting their own fuel economy standards. However, California has the right to develop its own vehicle emission standards. In case courts consider Bill 1493 to be a pollution control law, rather than a fuel economy regulation, other US states will be free to follow California and adopt equivalent greenhouse gas regulations.

Download Bill AB 1493
Automakers oppose the bill

Source: Governor Gray Davis