Oregon and Washington have joined California in requiring automakers to sell only new electric or hybrid cars and light trucks beginning in the 2035 model year.
The rules were approved Monday by the Oregon Commission on Environmental Quality in a 4-1 vote and the Washington Department of the Environment.
Oregon and Washington are among 17 states that follow California’s stricter vehicle emissions requirements under the federal Clean Air Act.
The California Air Resources Board, which is responsible for vehicle emissions, voted Aug. 25 in favor of tougher standards.
The action does not prohibit the sale or use of cars and light trucks with gasoline or diesel engines in those states after 2035.
But they will require manufacturers to offer increasing percentages of their future cars carbon-free until the 100% mark is reached in the 2035 model year.
Under federal law, states can choose to follow California’s stricter vehicle emissions standards or the more lenient federal standards, but states cannot develop their own standards. Some other states have said they have no plans to follow California’s zero-emission car standards.
“I think a lot of this state thinks we’re crazy to follow California on anything,” said Greg Addington of Klamath Falls, the lone dissenter during the Commission on Environmental Quality vote.
A couple of months ago, Addington was hired to run the Oregon Farm Bureau, where he once worked.
But Amy Schlusser, another panel member, said the realities of climate change are forcing change.
“If we don’t pass this rule here today, I think the transportation system will still be electrified,” said Schlusser, a staff attorney at the Green Energy Institute at Lewis and Clark College School of Law. “We just won’t have the same number of options. We will not provide regulatory certainty to utilities and car manufacturers. We’re not going to modernize (the grid) in a strategic and cohesive way that’s proactive, not reactive.”
Addington was also the lone vote a year ago when the commission adopted a statewide plan aimed at cutting heat-trapping greenhouse gases by 50% by 2035 and 90% by 2050, based on 2007-11 levels. This plan was aimed mainly at transportation fuel.
Several groups have challenged the plan in the Oregon Court of Appeals, which is hearing their argument that the commission lacks legislative authority to do so.
Transportation still generates the largest share of Oregon’s greenhouse gases at more than 30%.
Addington did join four other members in voting for progress reports, starting in 2028 and updated every two years, covering six points. These include: manufacturers’ compliance with the proportion of zero-emission cars they offer, the cost of such cars and batteries, how the rules affect low-income and rural populations, and the status of electric charging stations and infrastructure.
“It made me more comfortable with the concept of electric vehicles and what that could mean in places like Eastern Oregon,” Addington said. “But there are some things I can’t deal with,” he added, such as the presence of such vehicles in rural areas, the lack of charging stations and the suitability of the vehicles for agriculture, forestry and construction. The rules do not apply to heavy goods vehicles.
“I think there are a lot of people in this state who don’t understand where this is going or why this is happening,” he said. “We haven’t had a very good conversation about what that means.”
The Department of Environmental Quality staff’s original recommendation called for a one-time update in 2030.
Commission Chairwoman Kathleen George said the new schedule “gives us the opportunity to review along the way and work with others to take the steps necessary to achieve those goals.”
The Oregon Transportation Commission has approved $100 million in federal funds over the next five years to upgrade electric charging stations and other infrastructure along already designated highways.
The new rules are expected to result in 150 fewer deaths and $5 million to $13 million in additional health benefits, according to a DEQ staff study.
The new rules also aim to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 53 million tons by 2040 and 3,693 tons of nitrogen oxides by 2025.
“Emissions from gasoline and diesel engines can have a disproportionate impact … putting some areas of Oregon at risk of exceeding national ambient air quality standards,” said Rachel Sakata, the agency’s senior air quality planner. “These emissions can cause respiratory disease locally in addition to other health effects. Therefore, this proposed rule helps achieve emission reductions that will save more lives and result in fewer hospitalizations overall.”