Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misstated California's projected target for zero-emission vehicle sales by 2025 and 2030.
Mary Nichols was in classic blunt mode last week, calling the latest Trump administration challenge to Obama-era auto-emission targets "a piece of crap" and dismissing as "nonsense" industry claims that fighting pollution costs too much.
"Give me a break," Nichols said ahead of a California Air Resources Board symposium in the Los Angeles suburb of Riverside. She picked on General Motors' CEO to dismiss the argument that tough clean-air rules render cars unaffordable. "As long as Mary Barra makes more than ten times what I do in a year, I'm really not interested in what she has to say about poor people." (For the record, Barra's compensation last year was 132 times the $166,710 Nichols earns; Barra declined to comment.)
As the head of the board, the 73-year-old Nichols is arguably California's most powerful weapon in its war with President Donald Trump over the state's plan to combat climate change and have automakers toe the California line.
If they've done their research, the administration officials meeting with her Wednesday won't be fooled by her demeanor -- unfailingly polite -- or by her pulling a favorite trick to break the ice: showing up with a Tupperware container of chocolate-chip cookies.