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Senate Panel Votes to Cut Auto Emissions

Environment: A bill to reduce carbon dioxide from car tailpipes after 2008 as a way to fight global warming moves closer to full Senate vote.

April 02, 2002|CARL INGRAM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — A potentially far-reaching bill that would make California the first state to specifically target automobile exhaust emissions believed to contribute to global warming scored a victory in the Senate on Monday.

Over the opposition of the automotive industry, including politically influential new-car dealers, the bill won approval of the Environmental Quality Committee on a party-line vote of 5 to 2, Democrats to Republicans.

The bill now advances to the Appropriations Committee for another hearing, the final stop before action by the full Senate. Officials of the Davis administration have not taken a position on the bill.

For environmental organizations, passage of the Assembly-approved plan marked a hard-fought victory against a well-heeled industry that often gets its way, especially in election years when new-car dealers have been generous donors to political campaigns.

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Wednesday April 3, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 2 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
Auto emissions bill's sponsor--A California section photograph Tuesday accompanying a story about exhaust emissions legislation incorrectly identified the bill's author, Assemblywoman Fran Pavley. The woman in the photo is Jane Murphy Shapiro, who was Pavley's opponent in the 2000 election.

The bill, AB1058, by first-term Assemblywoman Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), would require the state Air Resources Board to adopt regulations by 2005 that would reduce tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide from passenger cars and light trucks and other noncommercial motor vehicles. The actual implementation of the rules would not apply to cars and trucks made before the 2008 model year.

Pavley and proponents of the bill, including the Clean Air Coalition, Natural Resources Defense Fund, Sierra Club, American Lung Assn. and the city and county of Los Angeles, said global warming is becoming a threat to public health, farm production and delicate coastal ecosystems and, in California, may cause premature melting of the Sierra snowpack.

Critics of the bill claimed that a regulatory system by California would offer a "negligible" effect on global warming.

But Pavley told the committee that California must take a leadership role in the fight against global warming, as it has in reducing smog, even if the reductions of carbon dioxide were meager.

"We need to do our fair share as the fifth-biggest economy of the world," Pavley said, especially since the Bush administration has dismissed joining with other nations to combat global warming.

Pavley noted that the bill specifically prohibits the air board from outlawing the sale of any class of car or truck, including sport utility vehicles, or from imposing mandatory trip-reduction schemes on motorists.

But opponents warned that the legislation was so loosely drafted that no one could reasonably predict what steps the Air Resources Board might take to carry out requirements that it produce the "maximum feasible and cost-effective" reduction possible in greenhouse gases.

Among other things, lobbyists representing the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the California New Car Dealers Assn. testified that the bill could result in higher car prices and fewer choices for consumers because no one could predict how the board's reductions would be implemented.

But Sen. Sheila Kuehl of Santa Monica, a Democrat who coauthored the bill, recalled that the automobile industry historically has fought changes, including tougher safety standards and stricter smog controls.

The industry lost those fights and eventually found ways to comply, she noted.

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