Rebecca Hudson

Looking to California for inspiration on public policy usually comes with a big price tag. Thankfully, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) has proposed the repeal of such a California-inspired policy: the “Clean Car Standards” rule, also known as the California Low Emission Vehicle Program (CA LEV).

The program was adopted by the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council at the direction of the Napolitano administration in May 2008, effectively tying Arizona’s tailpipe emissions standards to California’s standards, which are the strictest in the nation. ADEQ would instead like to implement the new federal vehicle emissions standards that would establish limits on pollution nearly as stringent as the California rules, while costing less to enforce.

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce submitted written comments supporting ADEQ’s proposal to repeal the California rule, citing the lack of evidence that it would provide environmental benefits and highlighing the increased costs the rule would place on the purchases of new vehicles in Arizona. The California program would also impose regulatory costs on Arizona to monitor all of the vehicles that are sold in the state to ensure that they met the emissions standards and could require the installation of infrastructure to support fleets of electric cars.

Following California’s lead on this rule may open Arizona to other disturbing trends happening in the Golden State, such as the business exodus they are experiencing right now. It was recently reported that thus far in 2011 nearly 70 companies have moved all or part of their business out of California to other states or countries due, at least partially, to the overbearing regulatory environment.

The arguments that Arizona environmentalists are making in favor of the California rule focus on the potential for deteriorating air quality and the associated health impacts. ADEQ estimates that emission levels under the federal standard would be about 1 to 2 percent higher than under the California program. Imposing superfluous costs at a time when consumers and the business community are already struggling financially does not justify a negligible difference in air quality.

The purported environmental benefits of CA LEV simply do not justify the costs that will put Arizona at a competitive disadvantage relative to states that follow the federal standard. Further, a state-by-state approach to regulating vehicle emissions does not serve the best interests of consumers or auto dealers.

ADEQ’s repeal of this rule supports the efforts of Governor Jan Brewer and the Legislature to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens on Arizona businesses and to increase our state’s competitiveness. We hope that regulatory burdens will continue to be lifted on the business community and that any future rulemakings will carefully consider the resulting costs for Arizona businesses.