California regulators willing to talk about air quality targets

CARB’s Hebert: “We are willing to second-guess ourselves.” Photo credit: Greg Horvath

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Trump or no Trump, California regulators remain convinced that their air quality targets are achievable and necessary — but they’re willing to talk about it.

Annette Hebert, chief of emissions compliance for the California Air Resources Board, said she is open to discussing the state’s standards with industry representatives and federal officials.

“We never stop reviewing our standards,” she said Tuesday at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars. “We are willing to second-guess ourselves.”

But the big question for CARB is whether California will continue to harmonize its fuel economy standards with EPA targets. The national standards are under review, with the possibility that fuel economy targets for the 2025 model year will be scaled back. If that happens, California would have a more demanding standard than the federal government.

Mitch Bainwol, CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, urged CARB to also review its targets with federal regulators.

“If California walks away from a national agreement, their ability [to influence federal policy] is compromised,” Bainwol said.

But Hebert maintains that the CARB standards are reasonable.

The state needs to make more progress reducing oxides of nitrogen, she said, but has had more success reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“In 2016, we concluded that 21 percent of the vehicles already meet 2020 greenhouse standards,” she said.

Hebert said federal officials have not contacted CARB to discuss a harmonization of emission standards.

“We have to get a call to come to the table,” she said. “We have not been invited to have a conversation about the national program.”

Bainwol responded: “Stay by your phone. I’m highly confident you’ll get a call.”