Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Buyer Beware: Car “Safety” Bill Contains Trojan Horse Provisions that Could Ruin California, Federal Clean-Car Programs

Dear Friends, 

We are not going to claim the draft legislation we are about to discuss came from the pens of Volkswagen lobbyists… but, as in the case of that cheater company, there is some real deception here.  And it also involves emission controls.

Tomorrow, a House panel http://1.usa.gov/1OG2gYp will hold a hearing on a draft bill ostensibly designed to promote better car safety.  Well and good — or so it would seem on the surface.

But buried deep within the legislation are Trojan Horse provisions that could not only kill California’s effective and trend-setting clean-car program, but could also erode the U.S. EPA’s authority over greenhouse gas emissions, to the likely favor of car companies. 

As explained in a description of the proposed legislation http://1.usa.gov/1LlIXjm it would promote various safety measures in high-tech motor vehicles.

One inducement to safer vehicles is buried deep within the draft legislation: see Title V, Sections 201-203  http://1.usa.gov/1XhmCsn

Under these provisions, car makers would receive “credits” towards meeting their greenhouse gas reduction obligations if they install certain safety features.  

And here is where this stealth attack gets interesting: Section 502 of the legislation would also amend the Clean Air Act to require that “a State” which receives a waiver to set its own greenhouse gas standards under the law must revise its rules within 30 days — or lose its waiver entirely.  (If you think states can revise major rules within 30 days, you must be living on another planet!)

This is a secret reference to California, since California is the only state permitted under law to set its own motor vehicle standards.  A dozen other states have adopted California’s standards http://www.calcleancars.org/learnMore-state.html and this dynamic has not only led to zero-emission vehicles and other emission improvements, but driven tougher national motor vehicle standards as well.  

Not surprisingly, for decades, car companies have tried to eliminate California’s ability to set tougher standards. For some background, note http://www.4cleanair.org/FinalBrochure-April05.pdf  

This latest gambit looks like one more sneaky attempt to do that. It could put the brakes on laudable efforts to put more zero-emission vehicles on the road and transform our passenger vehicle fleet to one that has far less impact on the planet. 

The legislation would also undermine the U.S. EPA’s authority by giving the U.S. Department of Transportation the final say in dispersing greenhouse gas “credits” in the future.  As those of us who have followed this issue for years well know, the car companies believe they have more influence shaping things at DOT. 

Implicit in this legislation is the notion that there has to be a tradeoff between auto safety and environmental standards.  We believe that is a false choice.

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