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Washington To Adopt California’s Zero-Emission Vehicle Mandate

by Eva Fox March 23, 2020

Washington To Adopt California’s Zero-Emission Vehicle Mandate

Bill SB 5811, according to which Washington became the 12th US state to adopt the California’s zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate, has already passed through the state Senate. At the moment, it is expected that it will be signed by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Bill SB 5811 "Directs the Department of Ecology to adopt rules to implement the California vehicle emissions standards, including the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) program.

Eliminates provisions of existing law pertaining to how the ZEV program must be adopted and implemented, including requirements that the ZEV program only be implemented if Oregon adopts California's standards, and pertaining to two systems of early banking and crediting for manufacturers of ZEVs produced and sold prior to the implementation of the program in Washington."

Under the federal Clean Air Act (federal CAA), most states, including Washington, are restricted from enacting their own emissions standards for new motor vehicles, which is an authority generally reserved to the federal government. California is the only state allowed under the federal CAA to adopt state standards for vehicle emissions.

California's vehicle emissions standards must be at least as protective of public health as federal standards and must be approved by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Other states may adopt vehicle emissions standards that are identical to California's vehicle emissions standards for specific vehicle model years. Under federal law, other states adopting California vehicle emissions standards must delay program implementation until at least two model years after the state adopts California's standards.

Image credit: yelp.com

In 2005 the Legislature in Washington adopted California's clean car LEV standards. The Department of Ecology (Ecology) was directed to adopt and maintain rules consistent with California's standards. However, the Legislature directed Ecology to not adopt the ZEV program.

Now The Department of Ecology is directed to adopt rules to implement the motor vehicle emissions standards of California, including the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) program. Requirements for the labeling of greenhouse-gas emissions for new light-duty cars, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty passenger vehicles are also applicable to medium-duty trucks.

Amended Bill Compared to Original Bill:

  • directs the Department of Ecology (Ecology) to adopt California's vehicle emissions standards, without specifying the types of vehicles to which those standards apply, but explicitly including the zero-emission vehicle program;
  • repeals a section of existing law that requires Ecology to provide two systems of early credits and banking for manufacturers of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) produced and sold prior to the implementation of the ZEV program in Washington;
  • adopts California vehicle emissions standards and programs in Washington regardless of whether Oregon has also adopted California's standards for the same vehicle-model years;
  • eliminates the exemption from vehicle emission inspection requirements for model years of vehicles that are required to meet California vehicle emission standards in Washington.


The bill takes effect 90 days after adjournment of the session in which the bill is passed.

SB 5811 expresses Washington's commitment to the clean energy and clean car future. The bill will help accelerate Washington’s transition to an economy where consumers can purchase cleaner vehicles, including electric cars, which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants associated with burning gasoline. It will help manufacturers supply more of these vehicles to the state.

Featured image: Peggy A Thompson




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