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Success Story: Cleaner Cars for Washington

WEC worked to pass Washington’s clean cars law in 2005. In August 2012, the White House made history by raising fuel efficiency standards nationwide.

WEC worked to pass Washington’s clean cars law in 2005. In August 2012, the White House made history by raising fuel efficiency standards nationwide.  So just how do those two events relate? Read on to find out.

Setting Strategy 

In 2005, after a fierce legislative fight, WEC and our partners succeeded in gaining adoption of California’s clean car standards for Washington. That victory was exciting, but it wasn’t the end of the story.

California was the one state that can set its own auto emissions standards, but only by permission of the EPA.  The Bush administration refused to give California permission to implement for its latest round of standards, which effectively blocked Washington’s new law.  WEC was part of a legal strategy to force the federal government to grant the waiver so Washington, California and the other states that were pushing for more fuel efficiency could move forward with better standards.

Statewide Success

In June 2009, with the legal case still on appeal, the Obama administration finally granted California permission. They struck a deal with California and auto makers for a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and an increase in federal mileage standards (higher mileage standards means less CO2 emissions).  

With California and 12 other states accounting for roughly a third of the nation’s new car market on track to implement tougher standards, and the prospect of ever more states adopting the tough standard, the auto makers had little choice but to relent and agree to an improved federal standard.  

That meant cars and trucks sold in all 50 states would meet the higher standards, delivering dramatic reductions in global warming pollution and other air pollution.

Fuel Efficiency for all 

In August 2012, the Obama Administration once again increased fuel efficiency standards, this time for 2017 to 2025. Under the new requirements, cars and light trucks will average 54.5 mpg by 2025. When compared with today’s vehicles, these higher standards will result in a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gases and a 40 percent reduction in fuel consumption.

If you want to learn more, the Department of Ecology’s site has information on the Clean Car Law, why it’s important for air quality, how to read an Environmental Performance Label and many other tips. Check out the EPA site for a list of clean cars that meet the fuel efficient standards that can be leased, rented, licensed, or sold for use in Washington.

WEC’s shared success is a powerful example of the how state-level action, in the face of powerful industry and federal administration, can ultimately turn the tide and lead to a major environmental win, as well as providing consumers with better, more cost-effective choices.

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