Cars facing stricter emissions limits
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By 2008, all new vehicles sold in Pennsylvania will also be eligible for sale in California because they'll meet the toughest emissions standards in the nation.
The state Environmental Quality Board voted 16-2 yesterday to set 2008 as the implementation date for the next phase of the state's Clean Vehicle Program, which establishes new car and light truck emissions standards identical to those used in California.
The California standards-based program, which New York, New Jersey and seven other states have already adopted, will cut vehicles' volatile organic compound emissions by 12 percent, compared with less stringent federal emissions standards. It will also result in significant reductions in six toxic pollutants, including benzene, a known carcinogen.
And, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection, the lower emissions vehicles will come with no increase in price over those meeting the lesser federal standard.
"Air quality is improving in Pennsylvania, but we need to do more to protect public health and the environment," said Gov. Ed Rendell, who noted that more than half of the state fails to meet federal air quality standards for smog.
"If we want to remain competitive and keep our economy growing, we need to find a way to reduce emissions from mobile sources, which remain a significant contributor to air pollution," Mr. Rendell said.
Vehicles contribute about one-third of the state's smog-producing emissions. Because the number of miles driven by Pennsylvanians increases by more than 2 percent each year, and 37 counties already fail to meet federal smog standards, use of lower-emission vehicles is essential to reducing air pollution and bringing those counties into compliance.
John Hanger, president and chief executive officer of Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, an environmental group, said if the state doesn't get air pollution reductions from its vehicles, it will have to turn to stationary sources for those reductions and that could affect jobs.
"Adopting the cleaner car standard also means cleaner air, which means the world for Pennsylvania's children and seniors," Mr. Hanger said. "With less pollution being released, we should see fewer asthma attacks, other breathing problems and cardiac problems, all of which are exacerbated by pollution from cars and trucks."
Mr. Hanger said cleaner air will also lower health care costs, and the DEP estimates consumer savings from the more efficiently operating low-emission vehicles of between $3.50 and $7 a month in 2016, when most cars in the state will be meeting the new standards.
"Tailpipe standards cost little or nothing in the short term and overall save consumers money, making this the most cost-effective approach," said DEP Secretary Kathleen McGinty.
The Clean Vehicle Program was originally adopted in 1998, during the Ridge administration, so that the state could participate in the National Low Emission Vehicle Program. It was supposed to take effect this year, but implementation was delayed by partisan wrangling in the state Senate.
The state's Independent Regulatory Review Commission has 30 days to review the Environmental Quality Board decision; approval is expected.
First Published September 20, 2006 12:00 am