Oregon Legislature Rebuffs California-Style Vehicle Restrictions

Published October 1, 2005

In a bipartisan effort to keep the state’s consumers from having to pay up to $3,000 more for each new automobile they buy, the Oregon legislature has passed a bill prohibiting the state from adopting California’s vehicle emissions restrictions.

The language of the legislature’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) budget bill, passed July 29, specifically prohibits the state from spending any money to enforce the California restrictions, even if such restrictions are enacted through an executive order, agency rulemaking, or other means.

The House passed the budget bill by a vote of 16-14. The Senate bill did not mention the emissions funding issue, but in a conference committee, the Senate agreed to the House version of the bill.

Governor Isolated, Threatens Veto

The bill sets up a showdown between Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who is moving to implement the California restrictions, and members of his own party who were instrumental in forging the legislation. The measure was approved not only by the state’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives but also by the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Kulongoski has been attempting to bypass the state legislature ever since it became apparent both the houses opposed the California restrictions. In April, Kulongoski formed a task force to figure out a way to implement the standards outside the legislative process.

“We’re going to move forward with it,” Kulongoski told the media in April. “It’s going to be this year, I expect.”

By passing a budget bill that blocks funding for any such program, the legislature has given the governor only one way out: a line-item veto. If Kulongoski vetoes the emissions legislation, as he is expected to do, the burden will be on the legislature to override the veto. A two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate is required to override any veto.

“The governor has been clear that he does not support the language” of the bill, Kulongoski spokeswoman Anna Richter Taylor told the July 26 Portland Oregonian.

“The legislature sent a message to the governor,” responded Oregon Automobile Dealers Association spokesman Darrell Fuller, as quoted in the Oregonian article. “I hope he was listening.”

Restrictions Costly, Ineffective

Joel Schwartz, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, explained why Democrats and Republicans in the Oregon state legislature united to block adoption of the California restrictions.

“California’s requirements will be costly to Oregonians while conferring few environmental benefits,” Schwartz wrote in an August 12 commentary published by the Oregonian. “Oregon already meets all federal air pollution health standards by a handy margin, including tough new standards for ozone and soot implemented last year.

“Consumers will pay $1,000 to $3,000 more for cars that meet California’s 30 percent CO2 reduction requirement,” Schwartz added. “But even adopting this requirement nationwide would do almost nothing to slow climate change, reducing global temperatures by at most a few hundredths of a degree by 2100.

“Consumers can already choose among dozens of car models that get more than 30 miles per gallon, yet the average motorist chooses a 21 mpg automobile,” observed Schwartz. “Larger, lower-mileage cars have amenities such as greater comfort, space, and safety. Consumers who put a premium on mileage have many choices without the government forcing others into cars they wouldn’t choose voluntarily.”

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

For more information …

More information on California’s vehicle emissions regulations is available through PolicyBot™, The Heartland Institute’s free online research database. Point your Web browser to http://www.heartland.org, click on the PolicyBot™ button, and choose the topic/subtopic combination Environment/Cars and Trucks.