States face roadblocks on path to lower tailpipe emissions

By Maxine Joselow | ClimateWire Link to article

Amid efforts by the Trump administration to roll back climate change regulations, several blue and purple states have sought to strengthen their own rules. But they’ve faced significant obstacles.

Nowhere is this trend more evident than in the case of Obama-era clean car standards.

In April 2018, the Trump administration signaled its intent to weaken the auto pollution standards, dealing a gut punch to state efforts to fight climate change and air pollution.

The reaction from Colorado was swift. Then-Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) signed an executive order directing state agencies to begin adopting California’s greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars, which are poised to be more stringent than those of the federal government (E&E News PM, June 19, 2018).

A few months later, the November 2018 midterm elections ushered in a new wave of Democratic governors with strong climate credentials. Three of those governors — Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, Steve Sisolak of Nevada and Tim Walz of Minnesota — steered their states toward the tougher car rules, as well.

In Colorado, newly elected Gov. Jared Polis (D) went a step further. Soon after taking office, he signed an order directing state agencies to begin adopting California’s zero-emissions vehicle program, which seeks to boost sales of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles (Climatewire, Jan. 18, 2019). The three other states have considered the program, too.

Yet for all four states, the path toward tougher climate rules for cars has not been smooth. There have been multiple roadblocks along the way, according to interviews with 12 people involved in the deliberations and a review of state lobbying records.

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