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Illinois lawmakers mull bills that adopt California air standards

November 16, 2010

Illinois dealers would be permitted to sell only vehicles that meet the standards of the California Clean Air Act, under similar legislation before the state Senate and House chambers.

Up to 20 states are considering adopting the "California mandate"—fuel efficiency requirements by 2016 of 43.7 miles per gallon for passenger cars and 26.6 mpg for most light trucks.

But opponents of states gaining the authority to enforce their own greenhouse gas emissions rules for vehicles say the multi-state patchwork of standards would disregard consumer demand and threaten vehicle safety and availability.

Congress last year moved to increase the national CAFE standard by 40 percent, to at least 35 mpg by 2020. The new standard, proponents said, would boost fuel economy while preserving consumer choice, vehicle safety, and the jobs on assembly lines.

The proposed Illinois Clean Air Act, which requires the implementation of California’s Low Emission Vehicle Program (CA LEV), is contained in Illinois Senate Bill 2238 and House Bill 3424.

If the bills pass, many larger vehicles would be ineligible to be sold or registered in Illinois. Half the vehicles sold in Illinois are considered trucks. Illinois dealers would face a competitive disadvantage with dealers in neighboring states that don’t adopt the California regulations, and consumers likely would explore ways to register larger vehicles out-of-state.

Franchised dealers could face financial hardship if vehicle choice is limited for consumers. Opponents also bristle that by adopting the CA LEV standards, Illinois effectively would cede its regulatory authority to California.

In light of Congress’s CAFE action in December, the Environmental Protection Agency denied California’s request to implement CA LEV. But new federal legislation seeks to overturn the EPA’s waiver denial.

Automakers say the waiver would cost billions and force them to stop selling most vehicles in states with CA LEV standards. They say states can be proactive on climate change, as it relates to the transportation sector, by incentivizing the purchase and use of alternative-fuel and advanced-technology vehicles, among other initiatives.

The CA LEV program, local opponents add, would undercut Illinois’s increasing production of ethanol.