Pennsylvania Adopts the California Emissions Standards for Automobiles

September 20, 2006

Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell announced this week that the state's Environmental Quality Board adopted the California emissions standards for automobiles beginning in Model Year 2008. The standards are part of the Pennsylvania Clean Vehicles Program, which sets standards for emissions of passenger cars and light-duty trucks. The program originated in 1998 under the auspices of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Under the Clean Air Act 1990 Amendments, states are allowed to set vehicle emissions standards in accordance with national standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or with tougher standards set by California.

Rendell said the reason for the choice of stricter emissions limits is air quality. The governor said, "More than half of our commonwealth fails to meet federal air quality requirements for smog." More than two-thirds of the population of Pennsylvania lives in 37 counties that the EPA designated this year as non-attaining its goals for the eight-hour ozone standard for smog. Cars emit about one-third of the state's smog-producing emissions. The EPA requires the state to develop a plan to reduce emissions in non-attainment areas.

The governor said that failure to regulate tailpipe emissions would create a burden on businesses because they alone would have to shoulder the emissions reduction project for the state. "If we want to remain competitive and keep our economy growing, we need to find a way to reduce emissions from mobile sources, which remain a significant contributor to air pollution," he said.

Under the new standards, cars and light trucks will emit 12 percent fewer volatile organic compounds, 9 percent less nitrogen oxide (NOx), and a 5% – 11% reduction of six toxins, including carcinogenic benzene. The Environmental Quality Board said it had receive more public input — 4,829 responses at three public hearings in March — than any other decision in its history. Most of the responses were favorable. The board vote this week was 16 – 2. The Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission must approve the decision within thirty days before the action is final. Most analysts predict approval by the commission.

The new standards will not cost anything at first, and will actually save consumers money because cars will get better fuel economy. However, assuming California regulators defeat court challenges by car manufacturers, limits on greenhouse gas emissions go into effect in Model Year 2009. Limiting greenhouse gas emissions has the effect of increasing fuel economy, and manufacturers claim this will add $1,000 to $3,000 to the sticker price on new cars. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Quality (DEP) estimates fuel savings of $3.50 – $7 per month when the complete Clean Vehicles Program goes into effect in 2016. (The cost of gasoline for the estimate is $1.74 per gallon.) See a complete list of Pennsylvania's clean air programs administered by DEP and read about the Pennsylvania Clean Vehicles Program.

For more information, see the DEP September 19 press release.