Emissions from new cars sold in Washington need to meet the highest standards in the nation – even if the Trump Administration rolls back federal standards, something President Trump said he intends to do. That’s the intent of a new rule adopted by the Washington Department of Ecology. Under the rule, all new vehicles licensed in Washington will continue meeting California’s standards, which would progressively reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that cars and trucks emit through 2025.
Reducing the amount of greenhouse gases also produces other benefits, such as reducing toxic air pollution like ozone, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.
“Reducing vehicle emissions is absolutely critical for continuing to clean our air and combat climate change,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “The Trump Administration has signaled it intends to roll back progress at the national level, which makes the collective actions of states all the more crucial.”
Cars and trucks are the biggest source of greenhouse gases and major contributors to other types of pollution in Washington. For more than 40 years, the federal Clean Air Act has given states the choice of adopting either the national emission standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or stricter standards set by the California Air Resources Board. Because of the significance of vehicle emissions, Washington’s Legislature passed the Clean Car Law in 2005, which requires Washington to stay aligned with California’s higher standards. In addition to Washington, 12 other states and the District of Columbia also use California’s standards.
In 2009, California and the EPA reached an agreement to align the state and national standards. Last year, however, that agreement began to fray.
In August 2018, the EPA proposed weakening the national standards by freezing emission requirements beginning in 2021. In September, California committed to continue reducing emissions through at least 2025. Now, Ecology has moved to keep Washington’s rules in step with California’s, as state law requires.
Rolling back those standards, as the EPA proposes, would result in an additional 1.8 million metric tons annually of carbon dioxide emissions in Washington by 2035. Nationally, the rollback could mean an additional 500 million metric tons of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere over the lifespan of the vehicles.