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Clean Cars Nevada initiative would aid state’s effort to combat climate change

Riley Snyder

The Nevada Independent

An electric vehicle charging station is shown in Nevada.
Courtesy NDOT
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was first published June 22 by The Nevada Independent and is republished here with permission. For more Nevada news, including wall-to-wall coronavirus coverage and a constantly updating live blog, visit The Nevada Independent.

Gov. Steve Sisolak and state environmental officials are proposing a set of regulations that would adopt California’s standards for low or zero-emission vehicles by 2024 as part of an effort to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change.

Sisolak made the announcement on Monday that the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources would seek to adopt clean car standards used by California and 14 other states requiring dealerships to sell a certain percentage of low or zero-emission vehicles beginning in 2024.

In a news release, state officials and Sisolak said the regulations — called the “Clean Cars Nevada” initiative — would be further developed through a series of public workshops over the next year and that they were designed to avoid forcing anyone to “give up their current vehicle or choose one that does not work for their lifestyle or business needs.”

“Now more than ever, it is critical for Nevada to continue accelerating efforts to address climate change including capturing the many benefits of sustainable transportation options for Nevadans,” Sisolak said in a statement. “Now is the time to set a new trajectory that will lead to healthier communities across the Silver State and establish Nevada as a leader in the clean transportation economy. For the sake of Nevada’s future, and our children’s future, we are taking action.”

The proposed regulations would adopt two parts of California standards for vehicle emissions; one setting standards on exhaust emissions from new light-and-medium duty motor vehicles starting with model year 2025, as well as a separate standard requiring an increasing percentage of new vehicle sales to be of zero-emission vehicles.

Typically, car manufacturers and dealers are required to follow minimum emission standards set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, but California and other states have adopted policies or passed legislation requiring stricter fuel standards as part of an effort to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions beyond federal standards. 

The regulations adopted by California are a fleet-wide standard, as opposed to requirements on specific cars or passenger vehicles. In Nevada, they would apply to passenger cars, light-duty trucks, medium-duty vehicles up to 8,500 lbs. of Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) and medium-duty passenger vehicles up to 10,000 lbs. of GVWR.

According to material published by the state, consumers would not be required to purchase electric or other low-emission vehicles, but would likely see more of them available in showrooms and at car dealerships. The proposed regulations are expected to have an effect on businesses, including dealerships, auto repair facilities, suppliers and manufacturers, given new reporting and compliance costs as well as “greater reliability of and lower maintenance costs for electric vehicles.”

Members of the public will also be affected; the state expects the price of zero-emission vehicles to be “initially higher than comparable vehicles,” but over time prices are “expected to achieve parity.” State agencies implementing the regulations — including the Department of Motor Vehicles and Division of Environmental Protection — will also see increased costs and likely need additional staff.

The state is also proposing to create a credit bank for car dealerships to use beginning with sales of model year 2023 vehicles, essentially allowing them to get a head start on credit requirements.

In order to take effect, the proposed regulations would need to be approved by the state Environmental Commission and then the Interim Legislative Commission. The state plans to first hold meetings and gather input from the public, manufacturers and car dealers between August 2020 and March 2021. 

Last November, Sisolak signed an executive order directing his administration to develop a comprehensive, coordinated plan to address climate change. The order largely echoed law changes passed in the 2019 Legislature, including codifying the goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 28 percent of 2005 levels by 2025, and 46 percent those benchmark 2005 emission levels by 2030.

The order also reiterated the state’s promise to follow the tenets of the Paris Climate Agreement, which Nevada entered in March after the Trump administration announced intentions to withdraw from the international agreement.

But per the state’s 2019 report on greenhouse gas emissions — also required under a 2019 law change — Nevada is on the trajectory to miss those carbon reduction goals, owing largely to expected unchanging emission levels from the transportation sector.

State leaders have made no secret in the past that they were looking to adopt California’s clean car standards; Attorney General Aaron Ford joined the state onto a lawsuit last year challenging the Trump administration’s attempt to revoke California’s ability to set higher emission standards.

The rollout of the higher standards was applauded by a variety of clean energy groups as well as several lawmakers and other organizations, including the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce, Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones, IBEW Local 396 and others, who said it would help improve air quality in the state’s metropolitan areas.

“Attacks from Washington D.C. can’t hide the fact that Las Vegas is the fastest-warming city in the nation or that transportation is the state’s largest source of carbon pollution,” Natural Resources Defense Council Policy Director Patricia Valderrama said in a statement. “Clean car standards will provide Nevadans with more transportation options and much-needed relief from volatile gas prices and dirty air.”

The Nevada Independent is a 501(c)3 nonprofit news organization. The following people or entities mentioned in this article are financial supporters: Committee to Elect Aaron Ford – $2,000.00; Justin Jones – $250.00; Reno Sparks Chamber of Commerce – $500.00; and Steve Sisolak – $3,200.00.