WASHINGTON - As the auto industry prepares to meet tougher tailpipe-emissions rules, the government is upping the ante.
In the past week:
New York Gov. George Pataki announced plans to have his state adopt the next round of California clean-air rules, effective in 2004.
Massachusetts regulators had a hearing on their plans to adopt the California rules.
The EPA and the auto industry hardened their positions on what the new federal emissions rules should say. Under the federal Clean Air Act, the EPA is authorized to update its rules for 2004 and beyond.
Greg Dana, vice president of environmental affairs for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, denied carmaker attitudes have changed but said 'we are trying to get on the record some good scientific data.'
The alliance claims most of the country would meet air quality standards by 2007 - even if tougher rules are not issued. Automakers cite the benefits of cleaner vehicles that they voluntarily began producing last year under the National Low Emission Vehicle program.
AUTOMAKERS SEEK RULES
Carmakers proposed a version of their new rules to the EPA in August. Now they are asking that the final federal rules contain some of their provisions.
While the details of Tier 2 are not known, the federal rules are expected to achieve pollution reductions that are close to the new California rules. They may be even tougher than California rules on some trucks.
That fact made Pataki's decision all the more mystifying to some.
'I'm wondering, why?' Dana said.
In a statement, Pataki said the California rules would give New Yorkers cleaner air than less stringent federal mandates.
Dana noted, however, that New York has not adopted California's low-sulfur fuel requirements, which automakers say are essential to any attempt to cut vehicle emissions.
The New York decision and the possible Massachusetts decision raise anew the issue of zero-emission vehicles. California previously required that 2 percent of vehicles sold there should be zero-emission vehicles in 1998. At that time, only electric cars and trucks could meet such tough standards.
Realizing the targets were impractical, California officials backed off. The state negotiated a voluntary deal with major automakers to conduct a large-scale road test of electric vehicles.
However, California retained its requirement that 10 percent of all new vehicles sold in California be electric, starting in 2003.
New California clean-air standards that will take effect in 2004 will retain that 10 percent target. However, automakers could get partial credits for ultra-clean, gasoline-powered vehicles.
In theory, the 10 percent target also would take effect in New York and Massachusetts if both follow California's lead.
'I'm not sure we can keep selling cars' in those states if the zero-emissions mandate is not revised again, Dana said. California officials and automakers are scheduled to review the requirement again in September.